Note about my Reviews

Dear Authors: The reviews in this blog are only personal opinions. I have absolutely no background in literature, writing or reviewing. I am a Librarian (actually a Library Technician for those who care OR know the difference) with a love for a good story. The opinions in the reviews are ONLY my OPINIONS. I am not commenting on the writers ability since well -- I am not a writer and never will be. If you are the author of any of the books reviewed here, my opinion is just that and not a judgment against you!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Incendiary by Chris Cleave: Book Review

Before I get to this review, I just thought I would let you know that I was dreading reading this. First of all a child dies, and I have a hard time reading books where anything bad happens to children – I’ve got 2 kids, it makes me think of them. Even before I had kids I had a hard time reading this sort of thing, because it usually ended with me crying like a baby. Second of all it has to do with a horrendous act of terrorism very close to 9/11 (My oldest son Jake was born on this date btw) and the July 5, 2005 attack on London. This brings up so many emotions and feelings that I have a hard time expressing. It makes me feel hate & I really don’t want to feel that. But the Random House rep pleaded to give it a chance – and I am not good at saying no, so I gave it a chance and I am glad I did.

Also must mention I am typing this up at 1am since my youngest fell off his chair and banged his head really hard on the tile floor so I have to wake him up every hour to make sure he doesn’t have a concussion. Bad timing on his part I have to say, I am already emotional after reading this book and I may have overreacted when he fell and I dragged him right away to the walk in clinic. So sorry if any of this doesn’t make sense or is overly emotional!

By Chris Cleave
Anchor Canada (Random House)
ISBN: 978-0-385-67129-3
Publication Date: January 11, 2011

Description: A distraught woman writes a letter to Osama bin Laden after her four-year-old son and her husband are killed in a massive suicide bomb attack at a soccer match in London. In an emotionally raw voice alive with grief, compassion, and startling humor, she tries to convince Osama to abandon his terror campaign by revealing to him the desperate sadness - "I am a woman built on the wreckage of myself" - and the broken heart of a working-class life blown apart." But the bombing is only the beginning. While security measures transform London into a virtual occupied territory, the narrator, too, finds herself under siege. At first she gains strength by fighting back, taking a civilian job with the police to aid the antiterrorist effort. But when she becomes involved with an upper-class couple, she is drawn into a psychological maelstrom of guilt, ambition, and cynicism that erodes her faith in the society she's working to defend. And when a new bomb threat sends the city into a deadly panic ("It was a panic like the darkest dream and the more people ran out onto the streets the bigger the panic got like a monster made of human beings") she is pushed to acts of unfathomable desperation - perhaps her only chance for survival

The Good Stuff

• Wonderfully written
• Heartbreaking and raw and very real
• Darkly funny at times, you will laugh out loud even while you are crying
• Author has a true understanding of post-traumatic stress and grief
• The main character is so believable in her grief and the authors description of her grief is so raw and powerful it brought tears to my eyes (why must I never learn to not read this stuff on the bus)
• The parts with the frickin rabbit ripped my heart out and stomped on it on quite a few occasions
• Really makes you think about terrorism, grief, revenge and so much more

The Not So Good Stuff
• Really disliked the ending - a bit of a downer
• Really didn’t understand how she dealt with her nervousness at the beginning – it seemed out of place with her feelings for her husband and child
• Also the thought of her leaving her child alone so she could go out and get a drink and have a little nooky made me incredibly angry
• Older son is a little freaked cause Mom came home with tears in her eyes and gave him such a big hug – also he mocked me afterwards – damn 9 yr olds and their disgust with emotional moms : )

What I Learned

• Quite a few new English sayings

Favourite Quotes

“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 Dexys Midnight Runners.”

“Nobody knew why you made them be Arsenal fans. Does Allah hate the Gunners even more than he hates the west in general or was it just a coincidence?”

“You’re a bit of a Knightsbridge girl yourself at heart Osama. We never see you without your AK47 and matching bullet belt I suppose Allah is big on accessories.”

4 Dewey’s

I received this from Random House in exchange for an honest review


  1. I enjoyed this book. In particular I enjoyed her writing style.

  2. This was a great book. I loved it.

    As far as leaving a sleeping child alone at home, to go down to the corner pub, it happens alot, in different forms. If she hadn't done that the whole story would have been different. Don't judge her, she was suffering and couldn't stand it any more. We do stupid things when we are distraught or worse, addicted (which she was not)