Incendiary is the story of a working class woman who likes her simple life: watching Arsenal matches on the telly with her husband and little boy, fishsticks for dinner in their small flat, the occasional trip to the pub.
One spring afternoon the woman, whom we know only by the nickname “Petal”, watches her husband and their son head happily off to Ashburton Grove, Arsenal’s brand new stadium, to see their favourite team play. A few hours later the horror of a terrorist bombing plays out on her television — the bombing of Ashburton Grove.
“Petal” tells her own story in an extraordinary voice, one both desperate and sharply funny, speaking directly to the man responsible for the bombing. She shows the reader an incredible world, a London that is not quite real, in a time that is not quite our own. And as deeply enmeshed as the reader becomes in her reality, a tiny, persistent doubt begins to creep in about just what is reality and what is a manifestation of her griefstricken and distraught imagination.
Dear Osama they want you dead or alive so the terror will stop. Well I wouldn’t know about that I mean rock ’n’ roll didn’t stop when Elvis died on the khazi it just got worse. Next thing you know there was Sonny & Cher and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I’ll come to them later. My point is it’s easier to start these things than to finish them. I suppose you thought of that did you?
There’s a reward of 25 million dollars on your head but don’t lose sleep on my account Osama. I have no information leading to your arrest or capture. I have no information full effing stop. I’m what you’d call an infidel and my husband called working class. There is a difference you know. But just supposing I did clap eyes on you. Supposing I saw you driving a Nissan Primera down towards Shoreditch and grassed you to the old bill. Well. I wouldn’t know how to spend 25 million dollars. It’s not as if I’ve got anyone to spend it on since you blew up my husband and my boy.
—excerpt from Indendiary
From the Hardcover edition.
READ AN EXCERPT
1. Look at the narrative style of Incendiary. The letter writing format means that the story is conveyed solely from one viewpoint. How successful is the narrative/voice in conveying the events of the novel?
2. The novel is written from the viewpoint of a working class woman. Many of the characters she...
“An audacious, provocative voice. Incendiary is stunning in its portrayal of a city living with terror.”
—The New York Times
“Stunning. . . . A harrowing and sharply written account of urban panic and the hallucinatory effects of shock.”
—The Globe and Mail
“Read Incendiary. And I mean it. Read it. It is outrageous, infuriating, heartbreaking, terrifying and very, very important.”
“Cleave’s narrator is one of the strongest, most convincing personalities to grace the pages of literature in years. . . [He] has achieved something magical, creating a character who lives on long after the last page has been read.”
—Winnipeg Free Press
“Hilariously sympathetic. . . . Cleave has achieved something rare: a black comedy about the war on terrorism and terrorism itself. [Incendiary] will break your heart and remind you how, in the face of the uncontrollable and the inexplicable, humor can allow one to survive.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“A poignant and compelling novel. . . utterly believable and mesmerizing. . . . Incendiary works not only as a furiously taut evocation of grieving, unhinged mother-love but as a sly political cautionary tale.”
“So timely it stings.”
—The Independent (UK)
“A haunting work of art.”