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Submergence Hardcover – International Edition, August 22, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Submergence is an example of an emerging genre: postmodern literary airport fiction. Offering myriad pleasures in its prose, it is studded with references and takes a nonlinear, episodic approach to a story featuring glamorous James More, an English spy and descendant of Sir Thomas More, and Danielle “Danny” Flinders, of Martinique and Australia, a sexy oceanographer and biomathematician. They meet and fall in love at a small, charming European hotel just before Christmas. As the tale begins, More is a prisoner of jihadists in Somalia, while Flinders is on a scientific mission on the Greenland Sea, exploring deep-sea vents. As Ledgard, author of Giraffe (2006) and an Africa-based correspondent for the Economist, tacks between widely divergent experiences, delightful essayistic digressions erupt. At times the story becomes superfluous, an armature for rhapsodies about the ocean, the desert, ideology, and the meaning of life. Ledgard strikes all the octaves on the keyboard. The result is a novel that is at once silly in the James Bond mode, beautiful, and extraordinary. An ambitious work that will provoke strong reactions. --Michael Autrey --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"An ambitious narrative that is stark, serene and contemplative...There is no disputing that Ledgard is an elegant, determinedly intellectual and disciplined writer, yet there is also immense humanity in this novel, which deserves to be one of the strongest challengers for this years' Man Booker Prize. It is the kind of novel that wins awards, and if it does so it will be because it deserves it...Here is an artist's novel that achieves the ultimate goal of any writer: it makes us pause and think, and think again." Irish Times "JM Ledgard's eclectic and philosophical novel ranges far wider than this latest manifestation of the 'war on terror'... Ledgard creates a prose poem of ideas and images that hops and flits with inspiration." Metro "Submergence succeeds, and is immensely pleasurable, because Ledgard's magnetic north - though incessantly insisted on - is such an uncanny, inhuman and deathly place." New Statesman "Submergence is frequently beautifully written, and ensnares the reader in a forceful, hard-driving narrative...If there's any justice in the world this novel will at least be nominated for a major literary award." The Scotsman "It's the only fiction I've read in the last few years that has left me open-mouthed." Word Magazine

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (August 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224091379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224091374
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,411,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.M. Ledgard was born in the Shetland Islands. He is a political and war correspondent for the Economist and a thinker on risk and technology in emerging economies. He lives and works in Africa.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By axel48 on November 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The problem with Jonathan Ledgard's new novel is that it has to meet an almost impossibly high standard. GIRAFFE, his first work, was a tour de force. Few debut novels have been as deeply affecting as this one. A certain trepidation regarding any follow-on is inevitable.

It is already becoming apparent that Mr. Ledgard has an uncanny ability to wrench us out of our comfort zone. SUBMERGENCE opens with a captivity scene that forces us to confront the claustrophobia and squalor of the political hostage in a way few of us could have imagined. It is real and visceral and nightmarish.

The book is an extended riff on a marine researcher and a British agent, part love affair, part juxtaposition between the closed world of a victim (constrained, closed, hopeless), and the open world of a scientist (vast, deep, full of promise).

This is a not novel that you can either put down, or forget. It is compelling in every respect. If, in the end, there is no resolution it is because the world offers no resolution. In short, this is a book you must read.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
This novel simply leapt off the table in the bookstore where I picked it up. There was something so audacious about coupling the story of a British spy captured by jihadists in Somalia with that of a beautiful mathematician of mixed race studying the lowest depths of the ocean. And a recommendation on the cover from Teju Cole, author of the remarkable OPEN CITY. He is right, too: "A masterly evocation of the intricacy of life" is pretty precisely what this book aims to be. A polymath's playground, it will appeal to the many who love to connect art to science, philosophy to reality, renaissance literature to the modern world. Unfortunately, the one kind of connection that matters most to me in a novel, that between human beings, is where the author is weakest.

Ledgard's technique is to write in short sections of rather dry declarative prose, from one paragraph to several pages. Some of these introduce odd historical or scientific facts, apparently out of the blue, but all connecting in some way to the author's complex world view. Most, however, concern one or both of the protagonists, jumping around over the course of about a year; it is left to the reader to work out the real-time sequence. James More, a distant descendant of Sir Thomas More, is an ex-paratrooper now working for the Secret Intelligence Service; based in Kenya, he poses as a water engineer while tracking Al Quaeda in neighboring Somalia. Professor Danielle Flinders, oceanographer, biologist, and mathematician, is the daughter of an Australian father and French Caribbean mother. She is an academic high-flyer and sexual adventuress -- until she meets James at an exclusive hotel on the French coast and they fall in love.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Askold on May 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Ledgard's second novel, Submergence, demonstrates that his literary powers are growing at a strong pace. The book is a love story and a thrilling description of how its two protagonists deal with very different threats to their lives.

One is a British agent kidnapped by Islamic extremists in Somalia while the other is a marine scientist who explores the ocean depths with only the thin skin of a bathysphere between her and an instant, crushing annihilation.

The love affair begins in a romantic French hotel at Christmas on a snowy Atlantic coast. The hotel's exquisite setting is in stark contrast to the claustrophobic cell and scrub wasteland that form the backdrop to the British agent's ordeal and to the unforgivingly stern grasp of the vast ocean that is the scientist's obsession.

The kidnap victim is a distant relative of Thomas More and the astonishing intellectual explorations of that churchman-philosopher become a vital source of inspiration and diversion for the agent whose brutal captors threaten him with execution at any moment.

The marine scientist, unaware that her lover has been kidnapped, delves into her own edgy history as she sails to the dive point and begins the descent into the abyss.

Ledgard has chosen every word in the novel carefully like a gem specialist sifting for only the best stones for a monarch's crowns. He explores or touches upon diverse ideas that are all connected in a satisfying, enriching yet not always obvious way. Like all the impenetrable bodies of water that wash against the locations where the characters discover their love and then are forced confront the question of who they are when life could be extinguished imminently.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Al T. on March 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is not a thriller. Look elsewhere if you want a plot-driven novel like "The Da Vinci Code". You will be disappointed.

However, I did find it thrilling, in its own way. The prose is simply beautiful. The ideas are stimulating and often deeply insightful. The plotting is complex but generally works. I will admit there were a few sections where I found myself wanting to skim and return to the main story lines; so I definitely understand critiques about pacing. But in the end, I respect the author's choices and think the "slow" parts are worthwhile and give the story room to breathe.

If you know what you're getting into, this a novel of rare beauty and insight. Highly recommended.
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