Reviews

“An audacious, provocative voice… [Cleave] has a clear and disturbing vision of the psychological effects of an attack on a city population.”
—New York Times Book Review

“A mesmerizing tour de force: ragged, breathless, full of raw emotion, the blackest of humor and relentless action . . . . The power of this novel lies in its extraordinary momentum, which sweeps us along a concatenation of events that follow the bombing. . . . This is Chris Cleave’s first novel. My imagination can’t stretch to where he could go from here.”
—The Washington Post Book World

“[Cleave] has produced something between a warning and a satire of a selfish and self-indulgent society isolated from the suffering world outside and finally paying the price when noses pressed for so long against the window give way to bombs able to shatter it.”
—Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Chris Cleave’s Incendiary is both funny and moving and, all in all, an extraordinary accomplishment . . . replete with dark comedy.”
—The Boston Globe

“Cleave has achieved something rare: a black comedy about the war on terror and terrorism itself. [The narrator] is made mad by a world gone man and, in that, she is a wise woman, a holy fool for our times who 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 brilliant epistolary novel . . . This is a haunting work of art.”
—Newsweek

“A poignant and compelling novel . . . This Everywoman voice . . . is 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. Either way, it’s well worth reading.”
—Newsday

“It doesn’t come much more topical than this . . . A tense and disquieting debut.”
—The Times (London)

“Cleave maintains this fragile persona with engaging consistency throughout . . . Cleave’s evocation of the aftermath of the bombing strikes the reader as undeniably authentic . . . Cleave seems to get the ratio between prophecy and satire satisfyingly correct.”
—The Guardian Book Review

“Fiction can be a highly effective way of depicting terror . . . because fine writing—and Incendiary is a very fine example—is such an eloquent human instrument.”
—The Economist

“A fire-and-brimstone satire. Cleave shows us example after example of hypocrisy and iniquity in the metropolis. You soon realize that his project is to expose and extract the city’s decay . . . An urgent, almost thrillerish read.”
—The Daily Telegraph (London)

“The eloquence of Cleave’s heroine is equal to the atrocity that claims her family. She is by turns funny, sad, flawed, sympathetic, both damaged and indomitable, and triumphantly convincing. . . . The unnamed ‘I’ of Incendiary is a true survivor.”
—The Sunday Telegraph (London)

“Cleave . . . has a phenomenal talent for melodrama, a dishy, vicious sense of humor, and a sprinter’s force as a writer.”
—New York Observer

“Totally gripping . . . . A well-done, even fascinating leap of imagination into an abyss of sadness.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“The sheer drama of actual terrorism makes the fictional aping of it quite difficult; the narrative deconstruction must be sensitive, artful, and deft. Incendiary is all of these . . . . Incendiary reads as an assertion, not a question, about terrorism and its aftermath. Raw, painful, bloody, gruesome; the narrative driven by a grief so immense that it clouds reason and propels the bereaved woman at its broken heart to the precipice of a moral abyss…. Cleave’s Orwellian look at the way we live now is hyper-realistic, his narrator true to the point where one can almost hear her ragged breathing, smell the gin and tears on her breath . . . . A near-perfect debut that will give the reader nightmares that may seem far too real on waking.”
—The Sun (Baltimore)

“Read Incendiary. And I mean it. Read it. It is outrageous, infuriating, heartbreaking, terrifying and very, very important.”
—Susan G. Cole, NOW magazine

“An all-around stunning novel. Even if Incendiary hadn’t eerily predicted the bombings on the London Tube (and hit British bookstores that same day), it would rank as one of this season’s novels to be missed at your own peril… Cleave’s debut could be considered the finest post-9/11 terrorism novel yet.”
—Bookmarks magazine

“Cleave’s writing is masterful in its understatement . . . Incendiary imparts a message both personal and political, timely and timeless, passionate and poignant. This quick read leaves a profound mark.”
—Bookpage

“Cleave’s is an original voice… Incendiary stands out among the growing number of 9/11- influenced novels. Cleave’s style conveys raw grief, but its levity prevents the reader from wallowing in the tragedy. A readable, personal take on 21st-century terrorism.”
—Rocky Mountain News

“A stunning mixture of mind-numbing carnage, anger, humor, sexual tension, betrayal and twisted bureaucratic logic . . . . A brilliantly conceived book that uncannily captures the impact of terrorism on everyday working-class life.”
—The Tampa Tribune

“Cleave’s book resolutely lays bare all the prejudices, hungers and dirty dealings that drive the world . . . . In his broken heroine, whose long, angry letter is eloquent in its plain-spoken anguish, Cleave has created an unforgettable, incendiary voice for these perilous times.”
—The Hartford Courant

“Cleave does a remarkable job in depicting the tensions of raw grief and the fierce human will to survive . . . . This startling novel pulls the reader in with the clear and compelling voice of its protagonist . . . . Based on something like the truth, it ends with a heartbreaking truth of its own.”
—The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

“The author addresses concerns of government censorship and repression, of xenophobia and the effects terrorism has on the psyche. While these issues are deftly fitted into the story, the novel’s greatest achievement is putting a human face on the effects of terrorism.”
—The Sunday Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA)

“With Incendiary, Chris Cleave captures the complexities of a society at war with itself.”
—Metro (Santa Cruz)

“A bold and ambitious first novel . . . clearly the work of a talented writer.”
—The Gazette (Montreal)

“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

“Incendiary is an extremely accessible, exciting and often funny read . . . . Every aspect of the physical and psychological carnage . . . is expressed with an unnervingly raw yet dignified eloquence.”
—Telegraph Magazine (London)

“Stunning. . . . A harrowing and sharply written account of urban panic and the hallucinatory effects of shock.”
—The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“[An] auspicious debut . . . Graphic depictions of violence and gore accompany humorous reflections on life and class differences—an odd combination that makes for strangely compelling reading.”
— Library Journal

“At points, Cleave’s oddly elegant debut novel about the soul-corroding effects of modern terrorism seems like something George Orwell might have written during the Blitz.”
—Kirkus Reviews

  • Winner of the 2006 Somerset Maugham Award

  • Winner of the U.S. Book-of-the-Month Club’s First Fiction Award
  • Winner of the Prix des Lecteurs’ 2007 Prix Spécial du Jury
  • Shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize