Monday, November 21, 2011

Terrorism Up Close and Personal

Some lives and some novels are dramatically altered by one defining moment.  Incendiary by British journalist Chris Cleave is a brilliantly haunting example of Before and After.

On a lovely spring day, the narrator's husband and four year old son are happily attending a football match when 11 terrorist bombs explode in Arsenal Stadium blowing them and a thousand other spectators to bits and pieces.

As a young "instant" widow, the narrator confronts her anguish and new life by writing a letter to Osama (Bin Laden).  The letter not only details her grief, but serves as a description of the new post "Mayday" London as the city reacts to threats of further terrorism, examines the ineffectiveness of government to protect its citizens, and explores the hypocrisy of the press in suppressing rather than expressing some very damaging truths.

Cleave does a wonderful job of looking closely at the English class system in creating characters that are products of their roots as well as deeply individual.  The reader is kept on edge as each character - two cohabiting journalists, a police commissioner and the narrator - has to grapple with moral/immoral choices.

Incendiary is available in print and on CD.


P.S. As an American reader you will be treated to a large sprinkling of Briticisms throughout the novel.  I hope these will perk your curiosity and motivate your looking them up.

P.P.S. Chilling Reality.  On July 7, 2005 the release date for Incendiary, terrorist attacks cripple London's mass transportation system, killing 56 and wounding hundreds of others.

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