July 21, 2005

Building Ourselves Again and Stronger

I was rather confused on waking this morning to the CBC radio news about the latest bombings in London, because I had read myself to sleep last night with the The Economist's glowing review of Incendiary by Chris Cleave, about a terrorist assault on the new Arsenal football stadium in north London.

An even bigger coincidence, because Cleave's novel came out in Britain on July 7th, the day of the London bombings; it's scheduled for release in the U.S. and Canada next month, and I've ordered it already from Chapters (I refuse to kowtow to the impossible "pre-order") because it will be a long slog with interlibrary loan.

The book follows the shattered life of Petal, a woman who loses her husband and four-year-old son when the stadium is immolated. As The Economist's reviewer writes,
Mr Cleave's multiple themes -- the controlling tendency of governments when responding to civil mayhem, the rightness or otherwise of sacrificing a few in order to save many, love or force as the best riposte against terror -- give his book a density he could easily have set aside, given that his heroine is only more-or-less literate ("I'm not thick or anything just don't ask me where the commas go"), and the tone is often rueful, funny even.

Mr Cleave has also managed two particular, and rather old-fashioned literary achievements: a distinctive narrative voice and a captivating heroine.

In closing, I'll end with a silent prayer for England and a quote from the book,
"Dear Osama I want to be the last mother in the world who ever has to write you a letter like this. Who ever has to write to you Osama about her dead boy."...

"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...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."

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