Review: Incendiary by Chris Cleave
Author: Chris Cleave
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: January 11, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Source: Personal Copy
This novel was the August pick for my book club, and I have to admit that I didn't care for it at all. There were just too many negatives for me to overlook, the biggest of which was the characters. The way the book was written made me lose a little faith in humanity. None of the characters, who were all quite selfish and egotistical, inspired any sympathy for his or her situation. Each chosen action made the characters look like horrible people, especially the narrator herself. Cleave seemed to take every stereotype of the 'bad' woman (promiscuous wife, neglectful mother, etc) and ascribed them to the narrator, which created such an irritating caricature.
For the most part the writing style didn't really bother me. It took about the first 30 pages to get used to the poor grammar and punctuation which represented the narrator's status as uneducated. However, many of Cleave's plot choices were outrageous, and the end just spirals out of control. I think the entire message of the novel came across as a rant when a more subtle and nuanced take would have made the point even better.
Cleave's attempt to answer the question of how to regain one's sanity after the loss involved with a terror attack definitely didn't resonate with me. Maybe if the characters were a little more likable or the writing more insightful then this would have been a successful novel.