Incendiary is actually a novel in letters, one written by an unnamed married woman to Osama bin Laden. One afternoon, while her husband and her 4-year-old boy were out watching a football game, terrorists bomb the London football field. The bombing happens when she was having an illicit affair with one Jasper Black, who takes her to the football field amidst the riot and stampede that eventually ensues. She passes out and wakes up 3 days later in a hospital where she learns that her husband and son perished during the attack, and all that was left of them were their teeth.
Our heroine goes through her life in London in a daze. She gets a clerical job in Scotland Yard where she has a brief fling with her boss, Terence Butcher. She meets Jasper Black's partner, Petra Sutherland, who eventually invites her to move in with them. One night at a pub, Terence makes a revelation about what happened during that day of the terrorist attack, something which our heroine also tells Jasper and Petra, both of whom are journalists for the Sunday Telegraph. What happens during the novel's final pages is just too good to reveal.
The character's letters to Osama consist of 4 epistolaries -- for for each season. The bombing happens in the summer, which incidentally is the lengthiest letter, almost half of the book. Her letters during the other 3 seasons show us how difficult it is to cope with the loss of her family. It's a downward spiral from there. The narrator sees her boy in almost every male child that she meets, and we see how the tragedy causes episodes of dementia during her waking hours. These scenes are very heartbreaking. You've left no choice but to empathize with her.
I love novels with narrators who have distinct voices, and the one in Incendiary features one of the most provoking and attention-grabbing voices I’ve come across. She’s not strong-willed though. On the contrary, she writes about how she just lets herself break down when she thinks about her husband and son. And this is the brilliance of the novel: it allowed me to think how victims of actual terrorist attacks are coping. Are they slowly losing it all, with their paranoia, anger, and sorrow? Or are they rebuilding their lives with what was left, which our narrator can’t seem to do?
Incendiary is a very satisfying novel. I experienced a wide range of emotions when I was reading it. I laughed during scenes that showed our narrator’s cluelessness about current fashion trends. I got angry at terrorists for their acts of violence. I became morose at the narrator’s emotional turmoil. Incendiary is a whole world different from Netherland. It’s not better, but it is definitely noteworthy for exploring the effects of terrorist activities on the everyday individual.
Read this book if:
- You love a narrator with a distinct voice.
- You’re no stranger to graphic depictions of attacks.
- You’re fond of epistolary novels.