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Comment: Very good condition! Book is ex-library, but appears rarely read. Fresh, clean front cover with no tears, creases, or markings. Pristine pages with no markings. Minimal wear on edges and corners with no defects. Small barcode label on back cover. Public library stamp inside first page and withdrawn stamp inside last page. Eligible for FREE Super Saver shipping! Thank you for looking!
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Submergence Paperback – March 26, 2013

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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


Electric Literature, Jeff VanderMeer's Favorite Fiction from 2014
New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2013
New York Magazine #2 on The Best 10 Books of the Year
NPR Books Best Books of 2013
Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2013
Library Journal Best Books of 2013
Rainy Day Book of the Year 2013

“Ledgard writes from deep immersion in his well-imagined characters and setting, telling a strong central story involving a terrorist hostage-taking and a perilous deep-sea dive, and deploying language at once precise and flexible . . . Submergence is a hard-edged, ultracontemporary work about people a reader cares for, apart and together, through extraordinary precarious conditions.” —New York Times Book Review

“An extraordinary fusion of science and lyricism . . . [A] darkly gleaming novel about love, deserts, oceans, lust and terror.” —Alan Cheuse, NPR

"[A] stunning novel." —The Atlantic

“Every once in a while, a critic will be mesmerized by a book that stands out from — even wipes the floor with — all other books that have come his way of late. . . . Prose merges with poetry; shocks detonate like depth charges, and characters’ fates actually matter in Submergence, an astonishing novel that utterly immerses the reader.” —Malcolm Forbes, Star Tribune

"Ledgard's Submergence offers a compelling investigation of a world (our world) in which doom and largess sit side by side. Thoughtful without being dogmatic, beautiful without being precious, it is exactly the novel we need right now."—Denver Quarterly

“What makes the book remarkable is its poetically rendered and remarkably intelligent glosses on Islamic fundamentalism versus the West, on Africa, and on the oceans….[P]rofoundly readable and unfailingly interesting.” —Publishers Weekly, boxed review

"[A]n intensive, coruscatingly beautiful book that plumbs the will to survive." —Library Journal

“Easily one of the best books I’ve ever read.” —New Hampshire Public Radio, “Summer Reads 2013 Edition”

“[James More and Danielle Flinders's] stories become dramatic explorations of conditions far larger than their individual destinies—a meditation on our species and our planet at a time heavily shadowed by the prospect of extinction.” —Philip Gourevitch, The New Yorker blog

Submergence wonderfully superimposes two seemingly irreconcilable worlds. . . . Like the depths of the ocean, there is much about this strange book that is hard to understand, which makes it all the more worthy of exploration.”—Wall Street Journal

Submergence delivers with its striking understanding of terrorism and its advocates. . . . Ledgard can mesmerize like Philip Gourevitch.” —Cleveland Plain-Dealer

“Profoundly readable and unfailingly interesting, this beautifully written novel tells two stories in parallel. James More, a British spy posing as a water engineer, is taken captive by jihadists in Somalia; the counterpoint to this viscerally horrific tale is his love affair with Danielle Flinders, a ‘biomathematician’ working in the field of oceanography.” —Publishers Weekly (Best New Books, Week of March 25, 2013)

“It’s no surprise that [Ledgard] offers not just an acute portrait of a man and a woman on the edge (or dangerously submerged) but an almost defiantly intensive novel of ideas. . . . Highly recommended for thinking readers.” —Library Journal

“Offering myriad pleasures in its prose . . .[Submergence is] beautiful, and extraordinary. An ambitious work that will provoke strong reactions.” —Booklist

[Submergence] is a tangle of rich imagery, philosophical nuggets and factual anecdotes…enough brutal and beautiful moments to make this book absorbing.” —Kirkus Reviews

“[L]aceratingly beautiful.”—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

“[A] ‘must read.’ . . . Submergence masks a mind-expanding exploration of science, philosophy and history behind a story which is at once a spy thriller and a passionate romance.” —Minnesota Public Radio’s “The Daily Circuit”

“[T]he best novel I’ve read so far this year. . . . I started Submergence one afternoon, cut short a social event that evening to keep reading, stepped off a train at midnight with twenty pages left, and stood under a light on a platform to finish them . . . strange, intelligent, gorgeously written . . . Submergence is a dark book, but in such an unusual sense: Ledgard turns out the lights, and everything, inside and out, begins to glow.” —Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine

“[M]ore than the story of the ocean world and more than a story of love. Submergence is a meditation on nature and so, too, a contemplation of death.” —The Philadelphia Review of Books

"[Submergence] is easily my favorite book of the year." —Vol. 1 Brooklyn, "A Year of Favorites: Michele Filgate"

"A few months ago I read the very literary novel Submergence, which ends with a death so shattering it's been rattling around in my head ever since. But it also offers so much more: Weird facts, astonishing sentences, deeply unfamiliar (to me) characters, and big ideas about time and space and science and love." —Slate, "Against YA"

"[Submergence] is, variously, a love story, martyrology, heresiography, science book, and spy novel. Like its Twitter supporters, who spoke in rapturous terms, I was sucked into the novel right away, from its commanding first line — 'It was a bathroom in an unfinished house in Somalia in the year 2012?'— to its final epigraph from Horace: 'Plunge it in deep water: it comes up more beautiful.' . . . I am very enthusiastic about this novel, because I found it transporting. . . . its ecological meditations are deep, its imagery sublime." —The Millions

"J.M. Ledgard has partaken in something that will outlive him and he’s to be congratulated for writing such honest and moving prose." —Rainy Day

“[Submergence is] not only a fierce and tender love story between two people caught in two very different worlds, but also a book that, chapter by chapter, taught me something about the world. It’s also a technical achievement, with some of the finest prose I have read in a long time.” —BookPage

“In Submergence, Ledgard sets individual lives next to the huge realities of nature, balances human self-importance against planetary fragility.” —Minnesota Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”

“Though the mood of J.M. Ledgard’s Submergence is meditative, the threat of violence—both manmade and in the natural world—looms heavily. . . . Ledgard is less interested in the thriller-esque aspects of the book, and more in their philosophical implications.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"Elegant and assured. . . The brilliance of Ledgard is in his willingness to plead ignorance. He understands that the enormity of the universe eludes human comprehension. To encapsulate its mysteries in a massive tome would be like trying to capture moonlight in a shoebox. For Ledgard, the short novel is a tiny window that looks out onto vast landscapes."Oyster

Submergence is a brilliant book. It is knowledgeable not only about East Africa and oceanography, but also religion and literature. But fundamentally the book seemed to me about the necessity of recognizing our ignorance.” —Little Brown Mushroom

“This stunningly written book . . . is also a beautiful and deeply intelligent page-turner.” —Guernica, “Editor’s Picks: Heat Wave Reads”

"If you can only read one book in the next week/month/year, read this book. . . . The world as we find it — and keep finding it through exploration — is a world of surprise, a world that exceeds imagination. Submergence touches some of that sublimity." —The Mumpsimus

“This is a beautiful and heart-rending story, full of images, feelings, facts, and history . . . [Y]ou will be changed after reading this book.” —Killer Nashville

“Ledgard’s novel is an erudite exploration of going down in space—not only into the water depths of the unknown but also into equally fraught human relationships on land and man’s longing and capacity for sustaining love. . . . a rare work of beauty in the face of such a risk and terror.” —Counterpunch

"In Submergence, Ledgard marries the wonder of fact with the beauty of fiction; the result is a portrait of individual consciousness and of this strange, barely understood planet." —Quaterly Conversation

"[O]ne of those books that grabs you from the beginning and holds on . . . Submergence is a superb and timely novel, and should grace the bookshelves of every gentleman's collection. . . . An immaculately researched and cosmic piece of prose, Submergence is well worth your time." —Inspirational Aesthetics

“My faith in fiction as an art always gets revived when I’m reading a book that I can’t stay away from and whose author’s skill I look upon in awe (and some fear). . . . Submergence by J.M. Ledgard is one such book. . . . A suspenseful, thoroughly enjoyable read.” —Petite Punch

“[T]he prose is gorgeous: both thick and gossamer in the same breath. That author Ledgard can make highly scientific and deeply anthropological themes both heavy and poetic at the same time is thrilling. . . . In the end, Submergence may be one of the most unsettling books you will read in a long while.” —LitStack

"Submergence, J.M. Ledgard: like Sebald and LeCarre collaborating on a book about Cousteau." —Medium

"There are some novels that do more than just examine a life, dissect a relationship, recount an adventure. They tell you things you do not know, often things you could not know. J. M. Ledgard’s Submergence is such a novel."—j.p. bohannon

“Combining meditative beauty with brutal geopolitics, Ledgard’s extraordinary novel balances us between compassion and violence, tranquility and fear, possibility and destruction. We stare down the barrel of a gun, we feel the pressure build as we descend to the greatest depths, and we trust the touch of someone who was until very recently a total stranger. Submergence is a breathtaking vision of life stretched between its extremes. We are immersed, and we feel the weight of the world all around us.” —Elliott Bay Book Company newsletter

"Escaping into Ledgard’s language is itself a kind of submergence—the book has a vaguely liquid quality as it moves between James and Danny and between the surface and the lower depths. A strange and beautiful read."—A Working Library

Submergence is a wondrous book – arrestingly original, inventive, expansive, vivid, and thought-provoking. Through the tautly twined stories of a British spy captured by jihadis in Somalia and a Franco-Australian marine biologist captivated by the ocean’s deepest reaches, J.M. Ledgard plunges into a passionate contemplation of what it means to survive – for individuals, for cultures, for our species and for our planet – in these times.” —Philip Gourevitch

Submergence is a masterly evocation of the intricacy of life, human and otherwise, but also of pain, pleasure, and the unknown depths. A strange and beguiling novel. The reader is pulled along by the undertow of Ledgard's intelligence.” —Teju Cole

“I’ve often dreamt of doing a work of art that resembles the experience of standing at the bottom of an empty swimming pool and physically feeling the presence of the absent water. Being inside the pool and imagining the water on your body is subtly different from thinking about the water while standing next to the pool. This difference, felt in all our senses, tells us something about how we see the world in ways that we often find hard to describe. Reading J.M. Ledgard’s Submergence is just like that. Spaces, colors, and images become tangible, and our senses explicit. We read with our body, not just with our eyes; we physically walk through emerging spaces.” —Olafur Eliasson

Submergence is a great achievement. Moving, disturbing and hauntingly memorable.” —Norman Foster

"A powerful look at what sustains us in moments of fear and isolation, and how intense connections between people can survive even the most extreme forms of isolation."—Work in Progress

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press (March 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566893194
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566893190
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #292,652 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

4.0 out of 5 stars

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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