26 Books

26 books: incendiary

by lizzie & isaiah on May 24, 2011 · 16 comments

The only New Year’s Resolution I ever kept was to read one book every two weeks for a year. Two weeks gives you enough time to work through a slow book or to take a few days off from reading after you burn through one in 24 hours. Needless to say, I feel compelled to continue with year two and there are more than 26 unread books on my bookshelf begging for some attention. So here we go.

I am overwhelmingly driven by book covers. If you can’t put enough care in the design of your book cover, how much am I supposed to believe you put into the writing? Lucky for me, Isaiah feels the same and picked up Incendiary based on nothing but the cover of the book for me for Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t put it down. It’s been a long time since a book had the effect that Incendiary had on me. I choked up several times throughout. I stayed up extra hours for the weekend just trying to get through one more page. Cleave’s writing is raw and honest and emotionally charged. Even though it took me a couple of months to pick it up the first time, it took me a few hours over two days to work through its 237 pages.

I’m not gonna write you  a book review here. There are plenty of those on Incendiary, I just want to tell you why you should read it. The book is about a woman who loses her husband and son to terrorism in London while she’s having an affair with a stranger. The book is written from her perspective, in a letter from a mother who lost her boy and husband – her family – to Osama bin Laden, the cause of her loss.

My favorite bit:

Before you bombed my boy Osama I always thought an explosion was such a quick thing but now I know better. The flash is over very fast but the fire catches hold inside you and the noise never stops. You can press your hands on your ears but you can never block it out. The fire keeps on roaring with incredible noise and fury. And the strangest thing is people can be sitting right next to you on the Central Line and not hear a sound. I live in an inferno where you could shiver with cold Osama. This life is a deafening roar but listen. You could hear a pin drop.

I can never explain why I love the lines I do in a book, but the books on my shelves are marked up with pen and highlighter and lines I wanted to jot down while I could still think of them. So when I read them to people out loud, they don’t always feel the same about the passage as I do. They weren’t on the emotional ride with me through the book, so why should they, right? Anyways, another bit I liked:

London is a city built on the wreckage of itself Osama. It’s had more comebacks than The Evil Dead. It’s been flattened by storms and flooded out and rotted with plague. Londoners just took a deep breath and put the kettle on. Then the whole thing burned down. Every last stick of it. I remember my mum took me to see the Monument to the Great Fire. London burned WITH INCREDIBLE NOISE AND FURY is what the monument has written on it. People thought it was the end of the world. But the Londoners got up the next day and the world hadn’t ended so they rebuilt the city in 3 years stronger and taller. Even Hitler couldn’t finish us though he set the whole of the East End on fire. Bethnal Green was like hell my grandma said. Just one endless sea of flames. But we got through it. We built on the rubble. We built tower blocks and the NHS and we kept on coming like zombies.

You’ve hurt London Osama but you haven’t finished it you never will. London’s like me it’s too piss poor and ignorant to know when it’s finished. That morning when I looked down at the sun rising through the docklands I knew it for sure. I am London Osama I am the whole world. Murder me with bombs you poor lonely sod I will only build myself again and stronger. I am too stupid to know better I am a woman built on the wreckage of myself.

You should read it. You should get it right away. It’s incredible. You can buy it on Amazon here used for $2.62 (no affiliate link, duh) and if that’s not a great price for a great book…I found out a minute after reading it there’s a movie and we watched it right away. Interesting how your mind draws people differently than the author or director of the adaptation pictured them. It’s worth watching once, though, and it’s not always the case, I preferred the book.