UK front cover
US front cover


“I am a woman built upon the wreckage of myself.”

In an emotionally raw voice alive with grief, compassion, and startling humor, a woman mourns the loss of her husband and son at the hands of one of history’s most notorious criminals.

“A haunting work of art” – Newsweek
A mesmerizing tour de force” – Washington Post
Stunning” – New York Times
INCENDIARY won the 2006 Somerset Maugham Award, was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize, won the United States Book-of-the-Month Club’s First Fiction award 2005 and won the Prix Spécial du Jury at the French Prix des Lecteurs 2007.

‘Incendiary’ is an international bestseller, published in 20 countries.

More about ‘Incendiary’


128 thoughts on “Incendiary”

  1. Hi Chris,
    Each one of your book are very special for me and they provied me to look at the world in a diferent way. It makes me so happy to see people like you doing such beautiful things and I think we’re not telling this as much as you deserve.
    P.s: Please keep writing!

    J X

    1. Hi Jan – thank you very much for your kind words, which have really picked me up today! All good wishes – Chris.

  2. Hallo Chris
    I read ur book Other Hand. Ur command of English language is excellent. They say the pen that can make u laugh is the strongest pen of all (this days laptop). U have that. Bit confusing though that Little Bee and Sarah are sort of talking in first person. What happened to her? Is she laughing because she is really happy or she thinks she has a future? Could u shed some light on that. I will read all of ur books soon.
    Best wishes
    Saleha Chowdhury

  3. A friend from the us sent me little bee and I loved it! So I got incendiary which I found incredible! I’m Italian, so it took me a while to get accustomed to the style, but once I got the hang of it it was perfect! I’m going to send it to my friend in California!

  4. I just finished Little Bee.Thank you for such a thought provoking book. I am still digesting how I feel about it. I was able to choose it out of my friends, newly installed, Little Free Library. I was thrilled to find it there as I was a giver on World book night and I hope to read all the books I haven’t read on the list before next year! I have the oppurtunity to add four suggestions for new books for next year. Perhaps I will get to read Gold and suggest that!

  5. Incendiary….amazing book, well written, great narrator, horrible situation but life goes on, doesn’t it? It really makes you look at everything differently. I would say, even, with more compassion.

    I read “Little Bee” first, for a book club, and then read this book. Wow- what a talented writer you are!

    Looking forward to “gold”

    Kind regards,


  6. Hello! I finished reading Incendiary some short time ago and I must say that honestly, although at first I was enthused it was a wee bit uninteresting for me, not for it’s content but for how it’s written, it’s lack of commas, which at first vexed me a bit and her grammar errors to name a few. However once I saw beyond that I realized how deep it is which I love and honestly, the denouement of this novel is so intense, so strongly felt. It left me immobile, I must say that it’s meaning is so deep, it reached further in me than almost anything else I’ve ever read before as you continue reading you truly can understand just how much her husband and boy meant to her which is amazing how she ends up which I feel so believably tragic that it makes you want to be different, I honestly mean it and truly value novels which make me feel such emotions. I should honestly Thank you Chris! It was a wonderful experience it’s one of the best books I’ve read in my life (not any book is so amazing for me).

  7. I’ve just handed your book to someone else to read. They started at about 11am this morning and are now steamrolling away at it. I don’t think that there has ever been a book which is so hard to describe- the layers and layers of devices and plot diversions make the short book absolutely sensational. Every time I try to recommend it I know that I’m not doing it justice and desperately urge people to read it themselves. I read it for the first time when I lived in Malta about 4 years ago and have since started a degree in Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London- of all of the international texts I have read during this course, none have so deeply affected me and stayed with me- I even wrote about it in a paper dealing with the representation of London in Literature, Film and Art. The heroine is totally relatable despite experiencing an horrendous crisis which very few people would ordinarily be able to relate to or understand. It’s just incredible, so thanks and please write more.

  8. Hello! I am a college student in the US and I just finished reading Little Bee. I don’t read much but for some reason I was deeply drawn to this book. I was so inspired while I read that I told my best friend about and she got a copy. We finished the book together and spoke a lot about the beautiful words and raw emotions that were throughout the book. It was great reading it together so now we want to start a book club and I want your other novel to be our first endeavor! So many people keep asking about the book but in order to not spoil the magic, as you insist on the back cover, I tell them that they must read it and discover the story on their own. Please, please keep writing and I very much hope that Little Bee will be made into a movie soon! Thank you for bringing such beautiful art into my summer vacation. God bless.

    1. Hi Madison, thank you for reading the book and for your very kind message, which means a lot to me. All the best for your book club. There are so many good books coming out at the moment, I guess you will be spoiled for choice. Something you might really get into if you liked LITTLE BEE is a semi-autobiographical novel by Vaddey Radner called IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN which is coming out in August I think – – I really liked that book. Also a superb forthcoming debut by Kevin Powers called THE YELLOW BIRDS. Or a novel by Cara Hoffman called SO MUCH PRETTY. So much good new stuff to read…

  9. i was drawn by the cover of your book in my local chapters store (toronto) (little bee’s profile)…that was yesterday and just finished the book…had to read to find out the end of the story…beautiful writing and therefore will definately be passing it on to my friends for their enjoyment…looking forward to reading your other novels…

    1. Hi Pauline – thank you for reading the book. Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for passing it on!

  10. I just finished Incendiary. It’s been a long time since a book has affected me so deeply, messing with my emotions and forcing me to question my perceptions. Thank you for writing this book. No question, Little Bee is next on my reading list.

  11. There are no words to describe this book. It completely changed my life. The way she talks, the way she describes everything and the way she’s writing a letter to Osama… it just all blew me away. I’m reading ‘the other side’ now and I’m just as touched by that book. Somehow you manage to capture everything with a perspective I otherwise would never have seen.You have become my favourite writer and I will be the first to buy your next book. Lots of love and luck, keep the amazing work going Chris!!

  12. Hi Chris, I saw you a few years ago at the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai. I had read The Other Hand which is why I wanted to see you for myself. During the discussion you spoke about Incendiary and I bought it after your talk. Some years on and I have recommeded Incendiary to all my book reader friends and family. Now Dubai Eye radio has asked me to go on their show as a Book Champion to talk about a book that changed my life. I have chosen to talk about Incendiary. I am re-reading the book again and this time taking notes and doing some research so I can represent your wonderful novel as it should be represented. I’ll let you know how I get on! Sarah x

    1. Hi Sarah, great to hear from you! Thank you very much for your enthusiasm for the book – it means a lot to me that it means something to you. And thank you for doing the Dubai Eye show. Please say hello from me to the wonderful books community in Dubai. I loved being there in 2010 and I will be back next year for the Festival, which I’m already looking forward to. All good wishes – Chris.

  13. I loved Incendiary so wise and funny and full of love.
    I raved about it on FB and several of my friends are going to download it onto their Kindle I am sure that they will love it too.
    It was wonderful to read such an authentic voice from working class London…where I grew up and worked among some of the most deprived people observing the lack of everything but love, the gentrification on the doorsteps of the poor, the willingness of the powers that be to sacrifice some sections of society to save others.
    I hope someone sent a copy to Osama……..


  14. Hi Chris
    Have just read Little Bee. I studied Fine Art and painted for 15 years and now have a 15 yr old daughter and 5 yr old son. I read quite a lot. I didn’t think I would find a writer that I enjoyed as much as Tim Winton, a local author here in Western Australia. You probably don’t know of him. I loved your book. I am almost obsessed with essence and the search for it. There is a lot of it in your writing. I tell my daughter that with painting it is important to keep the feeling alive and in all the marks that make up the painting or drawing that is being created. If all the marks have feeling and life then the work will have life. I think the same goes for words and writing. I work at our State Art Gallery and I can tell you that we have lots of dead paintings and’ artworks’. you write beautifully, clearly and with an unmistakable ring of truth. The four year old in your book tore my heart out. In fact all the characters were brilliantly and economically portrayed. I will definitely be reading Incendiary.
    Thanks for the heart and true intelligence.


  15. Good day just read the other hand super but I was sad when alas no happy ending How can our nation be so unfeeling ??

  16. Hi Chris,
    I am always reading a book but I’m a fairly slow reader and don’t spend a lot of time reading each day–maybe one hour. A friend brought me Incendiary on Tuesday morning. I finished it this morning. It is probably without a doubt the most difficult book I’ve had to put down. I wish I could come up with the word. It just leaves you wanting more on every page. The humor is amazing. I’m laughing my head off and then realizing the situation is not funny and I shouldn’t be laughing. So, I feel ashamed of myself. Just kidding. It’s really mesmerizing. Maybe that’s the word I’m looking for. I just can’t quite come up with the right word.


  17. I was impressed with Little Bee. But I liked Incendiary even better. It is brilliant writing and spoke to me and moved me on so many levels. Anyone with a loving heart who has struggled with PTSD, just as a result of loss of a loved one, or even just a small trauma, should relate. There but by the grace of God go all of us.

  18. Dear Chris,
    thank you for this fascinating story! For me it was first and foremost about how the personal and the societal destruction go hand in hand… without making things look nicer than they really are. I finished it in one go, and this happens so rarely 🙂 Love your other books too; please give us more “wake up calls”, you do it so well!

  19. As I strolled through Barnes & Noble last month, I was drawn to the cover of this book because I instantly recognized the silhouette of a girl of color. When I read the reviews by various news outlets, I still wasn’t convinced that I should buy it. But, since I hate going into the bookstore and coming out empty-handed, I bought Little Bee. This is by far one of the best novels I’ve read in a very long time. I just finished it and I want to start from the beginning – it was that good! My plan is to purchase Incendiary and download it onto my IPad tonight. The subject matter was deep in more ways than I thought it would be. The characters were real – nothing was sugar-coated. Pure, raw emotions came flying off the page and had me emersed as if I were there, but not seen. Please keep writing…

  20. This book was a requirement for me to read for class, but it really wasn’t. To me a requirement is something that you are basically forced to do and reading lillte bee was not. I absolutely feel in love with this book. I just finished reading five minutes ago and then I saw this website address and went on my computer and now i’m leaving behind a reply. YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. It is so rich and full of details and creativity and by the way this book will give you goose bumps. I bet you never seen a person at a karaoke bar reading a book instead of singing well, I did it, but it was only because I couldn’t put it down for the fact that the book is amazinggggg!!!!! READ IT READ IT READ ITTTTT.

  21. First, I read “Little Bee” and thought you wrote beautifully, sensitively. Then I read “Incendiary” and think you must be brilliant as well as compassionate and creative. How you can write heartwrenching stories, make them into one individual’s amazing story so that the reader is drawn into it, is an incredible feat. No pat preaching or sappy emotion, these novels (especially ‘Incendiary’) make me wish I could write even half as well as you, even a quarter. I hope you have another book to follow.

  22. i watched the film incendiary in the early hours of this morning, just channel hopping and started watching it i could not,go to bed until it finished!wow what a film! i did not want it to end,rarely does a film leave such a lasting impression on me, hence me searching the web to get more info on the author, and the actors especially michelle Williams she was amazing, the film made me cry,this film really made me think about terrorism and the impact it has on peoples lives more than any news programme, i have been to work today and i could not stop thinking about it,since reading the reviews on this site i am going to buy little b and read it,

  23. Just watched the movie ”Incendiary” and I did not want it to end even though it was a sad story! It seemed that the brilliant author was consulted for film and its wonderful director and cast brought it to life in a realistic way. Well done!

  24. Thank you Chris, for The Other Hand.

    I left my homeland in Africa over 30 years ago and after many years managed to be granted the privelege of becoming British. I was fortunate when Little Bee let me see what others go through.

    The Other Hand is a superbly moving, caring and thought-provoking work of art. Thank you for shainrg that piece of your spirit with us all, and thank yuo to your wife and children for supporting you as you must have balanced demands of family and book.

    Now to track down a copy of Incendiary.
    Thank you again Chris.
    Kind regards,

  25. I picked up your book by chance, at a book store in Indonesia. Little Bee has been with me since meeting her, I don’t feel she will ever leave me. The queen has even starting talking to me with each coin that crosses my path. The ending was abrupt and felt incomplete, however I know in my heart Little Bee with the help of Sarah and Charlie made it. I imagine her now in that park in London watching her english husband throwing their beautiful daughter into the air. Their beautiful daughter named Kindness. I was at the stage in my life that I was wondering who had taken the “Kind” from “Humankind” and just left the humans here. I now know it is people like Little Bee ans Sarah that have put the “Kind” back into “Humankind” and I thank you, Sarah and Little Bee for this.

  26. It’s such a great pleasure to discover you and your work… reading Incendiaire (en français). It is always impressing to read a man writing from a woman point of view. Thank you… well done Chris Cleave!

  27. Hi, its Hoda from Iran. I just watched the movie ” incendiary”. That was movin. It entangles diff kinds of emotions. I`m muslim, my big question is that why the stereotype for terrorists is either a Muslim or a Russian. I dont have chance to read ur book, but the movie was enough to me. U write very strongly and u know how to affect ur reader or spectator by the help of manipulation of feelings. To me, thats an art, and i admire ur talent of writin, but lets try be more realistic in ur next shot. Muslims or Russians are always feed up with equipments by european gov. Im not sayin the terrorists are innocent, but i propose to u just involve ur reader in findin reality or better said, the truth durin the next novel, dont represent just propagandas, show how wrong they are, how wrong they think, how their brains are washed up and how they are played by hidden hands behind the curtain. Thanks alot again for creatin such an art, may God bless u in ur works, be safe.

  28. Chris- WOW what a great book ‘the other hand’ beautifully written and so inspiring- your writing being so descriptive I was able to visualise each of the characters and settings so easily- whilst on holiday last week my 10 year old son was reading Shadow whilst I was reading your book and we were both giving each updates as we went along- He will definitely read ‘The other hand’ in a few years time! just ordered Incendiary and cant wait for it to arrive-
    what a fantastic film, ‘the other hand’ would be too!

  29. Chris, I cannot describe how much I loved both of your books. I am a 23 year old who has chosen to stay in on a Saturday night because I would rather be with your characters and find out more of their story than share a tequila or two
    With my friends! Praise indeed as I do love tequila. I read the other hand over two days having bought my mum it for her Xmas and shamelessly reading it first, I am so glad I did. Your books are fantastic and I attend to buy them both for many more of my acquintances. Thank you. X

  30. I am 54. I love reading, that is my passion. Hands down, this is the VERY BEST book I’ve ever ever read. How will Chris Cleave ever top this one? Thank you so much for giving me the pleasure of this incredible read. Simply wonderful!

  31. I read Little Bee this summer and thought it was amazing. I am very ignorant as to what happens in Africa and rarely watch the news so this was definitely a wake-up call. I rushed to the book store just after finishing Little Bee to buy Incendiary and I just finished that one as well and loved it. I found myself swearing at Jasper and his pompous girlfriend, Petra a lot and I wanted to thank you for creating characters that I can be passionate about. I wish I knew what happened to the young mother after the book ended. I thought it was fascinating that although she wasn’t the most educated of the people she had met, she was probably the most gentle and kind out of all of them. Even though she did pour gasoline all over Petra, she didn’t set her on fire. Although she should have.

    I will be reading The Other Hand next!

  32. Thank you so much for writing Little Bee, I felt at times like she was speaking directly to me. I know everyone gets something different out of what they read but I felt I pulled a lot out of this particular book. Little Bee was very wise due to what she went through at such a young age and although she is just a fictional character I still found my emotions rising and falling. So thank you for sharing your story.

  33. Wowza… Having read Little Bee first (and throughly enjoying, by the way) I bought Incendiary and read it in 6 hours. Could not put the book down. I laughed out loud and shed tears too. It was at times hard to read, almost haunting. I’ve since passed the book on to a friend and her book club is reading it now. Just say thanks for the 30 book sales I made you…..;-) Waiting on your next release.

  34. Chris:

    I loved “Little Bee” and “Incendiary” for lots of personal reasons that I probably don’t need to share online. I also enjoyed reading your comments to others on this site. Your voice is distinct and I really enjoy it. I’ve recommended your books to a number of friends and will take them to pitch at my book club. Do strangers ever recommend good reads to you? Well if you have time I would recommend “Effigy” by Alissa York. I think you might enjoy it a lot. I don’t know you so I might be off but there is something about the read, without getting all book critic mumbo jumboee, that resonates with me the way that “Effigy” did. These books make me want to understand why but leave me without answers because the questions are too complex for a single book – but I’m okay with that because they make me continue to question and seek out different perspectives.

    Well now I’ve got a rambling train of thought going…

  35. Merhaba Chris
    Bizim dilimize Küçük Arı ve Kundakçı olarak çevrilen kitaplarını okudum. Yarattığın karekterler,anlatımın çok hoş beğendiğimi bilmeni İsterim. İngilizcem pek iyi olmadığından kendi dilimde yazıyorum umarım anlayabilirsin


  36. I first read Little Bee and then read Incendiary. Chris, you do such an uncanny job in Incendiary of creating a unique female voice who vividly and passionately reveals the suffering, guilt, and trauma experienced by loved ones of those killed by terrorits acts. I find Inccendiary an important book that I recommend to all readers, and with the death of Osama Bin Laden the book seems likely to once again become a must read book. My book club read Little Bee based on my recommendation and found it a moving and eye-opening book. Thanks for providing readers with 2 thought and discussion provoking novels. I met you at a book signing in Dallas (teach High school English) and hope to receive a response from you as I have a suggestion for a way you can further influence US education.

  37. I was hesitant to read this book at first, knowing that it was written in the form of a letter. Usually I do not like to break out of my third-person comfort zone, but after loving Little Bee I decided to push my reading horizons further. I am so happy I did. I felt very connected to each of the characters, and couldn’t help but root for the narrator, even in her unfaithfulness. I am now a very loyal Chris Cleave fan! Thanks so much for your beautiful, striking works.

  38. I’m curious to know what was the “lump” the two men were fighting over at the game after the bomb? As promised, it was never mentioned again in the story and I don’t want to assume. Although on the dark side of reality, I enjoyed both Little Bee and Incendiary.

  39. I just finished Incendiary. When my daughter was 15 years of age, she took her life. I know the pain of losing a child. It’s interesting to me how some people can join life again, and others go mad. I really can’t say why. In my case, it’s just taking one day at a time and trying to make the best of that day. Anyway, Incendiary was a thought-provoking read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Little Bee was also a good read. Keep up the good work, Chris…. We need to be shaken up a bit, now and then!

  40. I just finished reading “Little Bee” and loved it. I found myself highlighting lines from the book and telling co-workers about them. I thought the ending was perfect. So much was resolved for Sarah, Charlie, and Bee by that last scene in the book. I don’t think Bee’s heart will ever ache after she decided to place her soul into Charlie. No matter where your body is, if your soul is free you cannot be confined. Thanks for the beautiful prose Please keep writing. From an RN in Anderson, SC, USA.

  41. I just watched the movie, not knowing anything about the book and I think it was an incredible story. So full of raw emotion and truly believable characters. I feel like I can relate to the mother and her position—everything. Just incredible!

  42. Your bring to life the cruelness and evil of the world in a very real sense, like the woman in icendiary you could understand the reasons behind her crazy motives as if you were living the horror yourself, this is good though cus it helps me understand . . I think your books both little bee and icendiary have touched my heart and I admire your work because you write about the truth of the world and in some way you give a big sense of hope at the end of the stories, cus in our suffering we are not alone even if that is how we feel. thankyou so much. please write more books like this. you are an inspiration to me, and i hope ur books will challenge peoples thinking with regard to how we value others in life!! Love can help change the world, the more love the stronger the world will be to fight this batte. May God bless you in all your work. My hope is to also wirite books as good as yours . . from Tamsin aged 17. north east England 🙂

  43. Chris, After being intrigued by “Little Bee” and reading these reviews of “incendiary,”I am longing to read your other books. However, since being retired, I am a fast reader and am aware of only two more books of yours, I hope you “get on the stick” with more before I catch up with you!!!
    (Very different slant in your book(s)…refreshing!)
    [I suggested Little Bee for our Book club this month and am leading the discussion. Can’t wait to hear the other ladies comments…I’ll get back to you on that.]

  44. Chris, I found myself extremely wanting at the conclusion of Little Bee. I feel that there is more to the story. Are you planning to write part two? The characters in this book have more of their story to tell. Please consider it. If you were standing in front of me when I finished Little Bee I would have smacked you in the head with it and asked “what the hell is wrong with you?” Go back and finish the story damn it.

    1. Thanks Diane. In your hypothetical scenario, how hard would you have smacked me in the head? Just curious as to whether I would have retained consciousness long enough to answer your follow-up question.

  45. I am going to pick this book up tomorrow and hope to get it read sooner than later. I LOVE LOVE LOVED Little Bee and am very curious about Incendiary after watching your video above. Though I haven’t read it yet what would your characters do with the news last week that Bin Laden has been killed? Just a thought!

  46. I did not want to read your book but it was chosen by someone at my book group. I did not enjoy it but some of the grief reactions did hit home. My son was 29 years 11 months and 21 days when he died but he was still my little boy. It was a difficult read but I did you the courtesy of finishing it. You know we bereaved Mums do laugh again and experience the joy of life even though someone is missing.

    1. Sue – thank you for reading the book. I imagine it was a tough read for you, and I’m grateful to you for finishing it and for writing this message which is both moving and dignified. I’m very sorry for your loss and I admire your strength in finding happiness again. It takes a particular kind of courage and unselfishness to live that way. All best wishes, Chris.

  47. I hated Incendiary. There aren’t too many books that I can say that about. I find the characters low lives and pigs although they are not worthy of being called animals. I can’t figure out why people love it. The characters are pretty much all sorry human beings and the “letter to Osama” thing is annoying after one page. I also don’t know what the hype was about “Little Bee”. I think this author likes the dark side of life just for the sake of intrigue, but it’s done with very little talent, insight and intelligence. I wish he’d find another job.

    1. Hi Patricia, I’m sorry you don’t like my books. Or my characters. Or pigs. Pigs are actually rather lovely creatures, much misunderstood, although I wouldn’t make any such exalted claims for my protagonists.

  48. Dear Chris,

    I’ve been reading Incendiary for the last few days, and cant leave it … Special congratulations to you , for u know women that much deeply. And since Bin Ladin was killed, it was really a strange coincidence for me…

    I’d also like to note that i also read Little Bee, and deeply loved it…

    Hope to hear for new book soon,

    Love from Turkey


  49. hi, I want to say i’ve really enjoyed reading your books chris, i’ve read both the other hand and incendiary. your writing style is really great! I live in holland, and there are a lot of people who know your books over here! your books are really amazing! I hope you will write more of those great books!

    thanks for writing so well!

  50. I very rarely get into reading. Its only every now and then something catches my eye and im so glad i found your book Incendiary on the shelf at work. I read nearly the whole thing right through in one sitting. Incredible work. Cant wait to read more of your work.

  51. Hi – i just want to say a big thankyou for writing 2 amazing books. Despite being severly dyslexic i love to read and this is much easoer to do when i can imagine the characters and see the way they speak – I read the other hand with accents in my head 🙂
    Both books are amazing i only wish you would come to the UK and do a book signing and talk. Iv told everyone i know how amazing your books are and i look forward to your next one (no pressure )
    Thanx again 🙂

  52. hi, chris! do you remember me? ı wish you remember. I haven’t read your book “incendiary” yet. but ı will read incendiary and ı know ıf you write a book, this book is always perfect and bestseller. you’re very successfull in literature. ı wish you’re always successfull and go on writing perfect perfect books, see you later 🙂 (if ı maked mistakes please don’t angry me because you know I’m still a student 🙂 )… and thank you so much for writing successfull books..

  53. I’ve read both Little Bee and Incendiary. I have been mesmerized by both. I enjoy your style of writing. Our Book club has read both books as well with good reviews. Can’t wait to see what you’ll come up with next. Keep up the great work!

  54. Oops. Wandering around the site realise my mistake about ‘Little Bee’. Initial embarrassment replaced by disappointment!

  55. Like other contributors I was a little hesitant at reading ‘Incendiary’ after ‘The Other Hand’ which was probably the most memorable read for me for a couple of years. I was completely convinced by the characters in ‘Incendiary’ and thought the narrative voice was wonderfully controlled and sustained. I’m not sure that I want to see the film. I will look out for more work by the author – hadn’t heard of ‘Little Bee’, so after my current read (‘Room’) I’ll track it down.

  56. I recently read Little Bee, which I enjoyed very much. So, of course I had to read Incendiary; I just finished it. I’m still mulling it over. I do wonder whether the protagonist needed to be a sex-addict (?was she really a sex addict?). I can understand that she needed to have a very serious flaw, and that flaw needed to contribute to her guilt. My bigger question, though, was whether her resemblance to Petra was necessary. It seems a bit contrived since it only comes into use as a way for her to get into the newspaper office in the final scene. I’ve wondered how I might describe this book to others: In tone, I would say it’s dark and disturbing. In terms of overall plot I think I’d say it’s about a woman’s journey into madness after suffering an unbearable loss. I’ve read now, online, about the film, and it sounds as though they’ve changed the story considerably. The thing that bothers me most about the online comments, dealing with both the book and the film, is that many readers bring up the issue of “healing.” This is not a book about healing; it is a book about the impossibility of healing under certain circumstances. Bottom line: I loved it but I think the protagonist needs to explained better. She is emotionally unstable at the beginning of the book. She uses sex and alcohol to calm her uncontrolable nerves which probably result from childhood trauma (which is briefly hinted at later in the book). The woman is desperately unstable and becomes more and more unstable as the story goes on. So, as I said, I guess it I would describe it as a journey into madness after suffering an unbearable crisis. Love your work; keep writing.

  57. After reading Little Bee I was afraid to pick up another book by the same author (for fear of not being as satisfied) but was blown away by Incendiary…if you’ll pardon the pun. Thank you, Chris, for that!

  58. I am an avid reader, but as a single mom of 2, it can be difficult to carve out time for reading for pleasure, so one of my goals for 2011 was to make better use of my hour-long commute by listening to books on CD. Incendiary is my first book on CD (not ever, but for 2011) and I love it. Very original, and I am now actually looking forward to my drives to & from work so I can find out what happens next! I have already put Little Bee on hold at the library.

  59. I was not one for reading books at all, but all that is going to change after reading incediary, i thought it was an amazing read and i really could not put it down, im a biography kind of girl and only read them when im on hols but iv been having a bit of a stressfull time recently and i was passing a book store and i just picked up your book, i read it within about three days which is mega fast for me. Im going out later to buy another one of your books i dare anyone to read that story and not get hooked….. amazing…

  60. I just finished reading Incendiary-I have a question What were the two men fighting over right after the booming at the game. She (the narrator) she would tell later-did I miss that part? Great reading-couldn’t put it down!

  61. I don’t know how I haven’t come across this book before, but now that I have I am amazed at the excellent writing.
    I loved every bit about it.

    reader says “The only thing about it is the lack of commas. ”

    I took this to be a very clever device for defining the voice of the character.
    Brilliant Chris. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  62. Little Bee is one of my favourite novels, I shared it with all my friends. I couldn’t put it down! I am so excited to start Incendiary, I’ve proposed it for our next book club selection.

  63. I would really love to read this but my copy seems to be a misprint… The paragraphs dont start where they are supposed to but instead they are in the middle od the page.. i have to guess what is being said…. I wish i would have skimmed thru this before i purchased it…. BOO

    1. Love – I’m sorry your copy is broken. If you can mail me your address care of my publishers, I will mail you a signed & legible copy.

  64. I am in the process of reading this book and it is very good so far. The only thing about it is the lack of commas. I find that I have to read the sentences twice sometimes to get it to register in my head. Its frustrating.

  65. I just read INCENDIARY , it was difficult to put down and once I finished reading the book I called my book group friends and suggest we put it on our list of ‘must read’ books. We wil discuss this book at our April meeting.
    The format is so clever, a letter to Osama from a woman who wants to understand the actions of evil, and to make it personal for a terrorist so he can know the pain, the grief, the loss, the worthlessness of his inhumane deeds. The raw emotions, the unspeakable grief, the dark humor, and the survival instinct of the main character makes me love her for all she is, the good-bad-ugly.
    Thanks for another wonderful read! Little Bee was such a pleasure to read, I knew I would enjoy Incendiary, but I never expected to get so emotionally involved in the characters, and Mr. Rabbit.

  66. Have just finished INCENDIARY and it ripped out my guts, trampled on them and refused to put them back. Fantastic book, one of the best I have ever read and one which will continue to haunt me for a long, long time. So cleverly written and enhanced so much by the simple things, nameless characters, continued use of name Osama, constant use of the word “of” instead of “have” in the character’s letter. I have a little boy coming up four years old, don’t think I’ll ever sleep again….. Will be telling everyone I know to bag a copy of this book. I loved THE OTHER HAND but INCENDIARY just killed me. Thank you for bringing it into my life.

  67. To Nush, Shona and Dean – thank you all for your very worthwhile comments, and thank you all for reading the book. Nush, I truly wasn’t having a go at Islam in INCENDIARY. I was abhorring the violence carried out by both sides of what, at the time of writing, was being called the ‘War on Terror.” I stated explicitly and often that my argument was with violence, not with religion. Furthermore, if there are any “bad” characters in the novel, then I think they are the non-Muslim characters of Petra and Terrence. Finally, I think that the sanctions put in place against Muslims in my novel following the Mayday attack, and the way that the narrator views those sanctions, show that neither she nor I approve of the persecution of that community.

    That being said, I can see how from your perspective you could be tired of people like me and their opinions. I get tired of myself sometimes. In my defence all I can say is that I really don’t have a problem with religion or with Islam. I think that my country is much better off for having a sizable Muslim population, and I hope it grows and prospers.

    When I survey the whole sweep of British media, I do think that you have a very valid argument that there is an anti-Muslim bias, and I join you in abhorring that bias. To view all Muslims with suspicion because of the activities of a few Muslims is frankly absurd, and the Western media without question is collectively guilty of operating a double standard. Timothy McVeigh, for example, was brought up Catholic, but I didn’t see any newspapers denouncing the Catholic community after the Oklahoma City bombing. If he’d been brought up Muslim, I would bet my life that the story would have been reported differently.

    If I was Muslim, that kind of bias would drive me nuts, and I can only sympathise with your frustration and thank you for taking the time to read my work and to comment on it in this forum.

    Best wishes to all,

  68. In support of Shona Albouy,

    I totally get you your perspective and I understand that Nush is just fed up with all the bad press that Islam gets because of a tiny population of its followers. Mena’s character highlighted clearly that not all muslims have a disgust for the “west” of the world but reading your comments helps me to remember that we are all coming from our own perspectives and for some of us its hard to see a story as thought provoking and contraversial as this one through completely objective eyes. I think Chris treated these issues greatly and was very objective for someone that comes from his background. All I’m saying is that it makes complete sense that some muslims will react to a story like this in the way Nush has. Its kinda natural in a sense however the higher ground is to be objective and see things through the eyes of the creator. He was just describing a scene from his own point of view and where or how your brought upand who you become has a profound impact on this. I hope im making sense lol.


  70. Can I just remind Nush ( who commented above) of the nurse Mena? Surely her compassion is representative of true Muslim faith? I think Chris was making the point that such people get caught up in religious hatred and are also innocent victims.

  71. As promised after my comment on The Other Hand, I bought myself a copy of Incendiary. It was supposed to be my Christmas reading but I thought I’d just read a couple of pages and 24 hours later I’ve already completed it. Another brilliant piece of writing. What I love about your main characters is their humanity, and by that I mean ‘being human’. God knows how you did it, but there were some really funny lines in all that tragic horror. I hope that, like your character, (who rather appropriately remains “nameless”) Osama also runs out of hate. Worse than the bombs is the fear that causes people to trample each other underfoot. That’s the message I’ll take away. More power to your pen.

  72. Stayed in bed this morning to finish Incendiary, eventually getting up at 10 am – sad to have finished a great book. Like the other reviewers here, I love your writing – it’s raw, real and educative, and also funny and sharp. I have just started some work in which I need to get my head around religious hatred, and I could not have had a better start with Incendiary. Thank you so much for your insights and integrity.

  73. Chris, I have searched for Incendiary on and have found several editions/reissues… is there any substantive difference between them? Better to buy a 2009 copy than a 2005, or no difference?

  74. Hi Chris
    I have just finished reading incendiary and the other hand, whilst on holiday. In both books you show a woman’s perspective through times of great pain in a way I didn’t think a male author could. I felt the pain of the characters and found myself compelled to read further and further into the books hoping the best for them. I love becoming emotionally attached to the characters in books so thank you for them. I can’t wait to see what comes next and will definitely be passing on huge recommendations to friends and family to buy these books. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  75. Totally blown away by Incendiary. It is all that a novel could and should be. Recommending it in huge ripples. Congratulations on its realisation.

  76. I’ve just finished reading Incendiary. I also read The Other Hand a couple of weeks ago. Wow – what amazing books. I desperately want my husband to read them asap so that I can discuss them with him! They are so thought provoking, and so imaginatively written. As per the comments above, I also thought you were a female writer. I recently did a creative writing course, and think a real challenge is building up believable characters. The charachers here are so credible. Please hurry up and write a 3rd book.

  77. When my daughter, Sally and her mate, Ann came to visit FL they left 2 books behind.. I read The Other Hand first, some time ago.. I loved your writing and the subject.. I since found that it was published in the US as Little Bee, but I missed it.. I just finished Incendiary and am literally blown away! We are transplanted New Yorkers and 9/11 is still painful to remember.. We’ve spent many visits to London and to think of it in flames is just as terrifying.. Chris – keep writing!

  78. Chris ,I loved your book little bee ,we are going to discuss it on monday at our book club. I am a muslim & I agree 100 % with Nush ‘s above comment .A lot of people have a misconception about Islam. PEACE TO ALL.

  79. I love your work. And I am so glad that Barack Obama has abandoned the war on terrorism.
    Your books have left me breathless. Loved your characters. Sometimes it’s so raw – touching and also funny at times otherwise it would be too much. In Holland the writer Kluun has the same effect on me. All the best.

  80. Amazing! I have just finished incendiary. As a hard working father of a 15yo boy, I can completely empathise with your central character. I have a hollowness in me and struggle for breath as I reflect upon the story. The ending is sublime – I was so glad there was no more death. But what a sadness! it was raw, honest and very touching – I loved it and it will stay with me for a very long time. Thank you for taking the risk to become a writer and bare your soul to us all – you are a great addition to the literary world!

    All the very best.

  81. Dear Chris, the story of Incendiary has a very strong and unique character of its own. From the opening sentence until the last twist, the plot is stunning. The characters are rich and deep and one can identify easily with them. The loss of the son is breathtaking. Thank you for writing this story.

  82. Hi Chris

    I have just finished Incediary. I have never written to an author before but this book just took me to another place. I adored the mother, the letter writer. She was utterly wonderful and funny and furious and true. Thank you so much for this story. It’s one of those ones that will keep coming back to me, I know. And I’ll welcome it.

  83. Chris,

    my job recently relocated to Boston, MA which has now become a 2 hour commute one way. I decided I needed to take advantage of this time rather than complain about how tired I am daily with a 4 hour roundtrip commute, I went to the bookstore on Sunday evening and purchased Little Bee not knowing anything about you or the book. What caught my eye and made me buy it was the caption on the top of the back of the cover. I finished the book this morning on the train, it took everything I had to hold back the tears, I couldn’t do it, I cried. This book is so amazing – I gave myself headaches because I couldn’t put it now.

    I have been thinking about Little Bee all morning as if she were real, I hate the endings, I want to know where they are and what they are doing, It will take me a long time to let her go, even as I write this to you, I am choking up. Thank you for opening my eyes to something that is so real and yet so many of us allow it to be hidden within our own souls..

    I will look forward to reading Incediary once I am able to say goodbye to Little Bee like she needed to do with her sister page 256.

    Thank you so much for you….


  84. Chris,

    I just finished reading “Little Bee”…and you have a me hooked as my new favorite author. I found your novel to be “non-arguable” and “courageously humanitarious with a strong compassion of forgiven betrayal.” I am eager to read your other novel, Incediary. Thank you for introducing me to a world I was ignorant about. I once had strong opinions about immigrations and now find myself questioning my views.

  85. Chris,
    I read Incendiary a couple of years ago, and though my annual rummagings, found it again and began to read. Once i started i couldnt stop till i had devoured the whole book. I don’t usually have the patience to read a book more than once, but i have read Incendiary a few more times since i rediscovered it.
    Its one of those books people talk about, the types that change your perspective on the world and open your eyes to what your missing, its also one that makes the reader feel conflicted between crying their eyes out, laughing at the main character quick wit, and marvelling at her.. Human-ness.
    To be honest, i was astounded when i realised you werent a woman after i read the book cover to cover :P, you just captured the love of a mother so well.
    Being only 15, you dont expect a book you stumbled upon by accident to have this effect on you, but i thank you for the experience.
    Its a brilliant eye-opener of a book and i am looking forward to hunting down your other novels

  86. Chris,

    I have just finished The Other Hand, then Incendiary back to back. I feel exhausted but enriched at the same time. My heart is racing a bit faster as I literally finished Incendiary ten minutes ago. What an amazing book, compelling but bleak at the same time. We all love a happy ending but sometimes there is no happy ending. I have two girls and when I look at the world I have brought them into, I despair. I am sure there are loads of us out there, like worker ants trying to bring our children up well, obeying the speed limits and watching how many units we drink a week, but sometimes it all seems pointless when there is so much horror out there. How can we change anything?

    Chris, if the only thing you ever do is write books like that, it will have been worthwhile, to make people stop and think. Well done………..and enjoy NY. We went in the January before 9/11. It was beautiful and has amazingly continued to grow and thrive as a city. Thanks again for the books.

  87. Elly, thank you. I hope you know what a good feeling it is, as a writer, to receive a comment like this. One day when I am old and all of this work is behind me and no one is reading my stuff anymore, I know I will re-read this message of yours and realise that it all meant something at least. Thank you again. You do sound like a great person and I bet you are going to have an amazing life!

  88. Chris,
    I like it when you read something so involving and special it makes your heart slow down and you think you could die just there and then, like wittnessessing a car crash so destructively compelling and you can just feel your heart slow slow slower until-
    This novel is real. I am a 15 year old girl on the cusp of life with star’s in her eyes and the world at her feet. I am typical for my age, I live things by the little things in life like a funny shaped cloud a text in the morning telling me to have a good day and things that unite strangers like snowy days or-
    This has utterly changed my perspective of life. You write to each reader individually, we become your nameless heroine because she is so real and relateable and so painstakingly genuine that you can’t help but open your heart to her. She is not perfect my god we know she has made mistakes which is what generates each reader’s empathy.
    Incendiary is so genuinely thought-provoking. I had never before considered terrorism or how close to home it can hit. Incendiary has become part of my life I must thank you for, it has taught me more about people then anything I have ever learnt in education. I have been left unmotivated by life although there is nothing wrong with it, but wittnessing second hand all the hate and pain of the adult world around me has has left me bitter. Since reading Incendiary, I now want to turn the world and I have never felt so alive and passionate about countering terrorism and helping people and saving humanity. Your novel has opened my eyes to the importance of maintaining SANITY.
    This book needs to be read; living through your character has given me new hope and an aspiration, that I can be as brave as the survivors of May Day and do something to turn the world.

  89. hi i have just picked up incendiary
    we have a casual book club at work
    i run the canteen so we have a bookcase where everyone can swap books
    i have already read 163 pages cant put it down
    this is one of the best books i have ever read
    totally identify with your “woman”
    we totally feel for mum dad and son who never have a name
    this is so emotional
    i admire you for writing so acutely as a woman when you are obviously a man

  90. Paul Coelho has a rival- Both The Other Hand and Incendiary are life changing books. It is such a rareity to read something that stays with you in your sleep and leaves you questioning your own life and views. Having just finished Incendiary on Christmas Eve after recieving it as a secret santa gift it has left me glad to have what i have and be who i am, that is what you call a good read! Chris Cleave is a true talent in his ability to have you crying for the most unlikeable character on the surface of it, he has put himself in the shoes of an adultress, working class mother who left her son alone to go to the pub and sleep with another man, the same one she is sleeping with when her husband and son are blown to bits in a terrorist attck, and still manages to make you cry, feel and adore the woman with every chapter. Please hurry and write another!

  91. Eight fortysomething Guildford ladies discussed Incendiary at Book Club last night. We are all mothers of sons (as well as daughters). Most found it shocking and horrific however not everyone got the humour which was fantastic in the way it was set against the horror. I loved Elton’s song, and the Tesco application. Some found Jasper endearing although i didn’t I thought he was weak. We also felt the scene with the stampede and panic across the bridge to be truly believeable and so awful. We all felt we loved the style and the way the main character, her son and husband had no names, maybe they are every family. We wondered if she’d ever sent the letter, and would it have reached him. If it did would he have read it he’s only a man after all. A great book, thank you. (we have also read The Other Hand too. Let’s hope there’s another one coming soon!

  92. Chris,
    Picked up “the Other Hand” at amsterdam airport just by pure chance and couldnt stop reading. Had to search for Incendiary for a while and read it in a couple of days.
    Became your devoted fan and will not be able to express in full how I admire your talent, your ability to combine tragic and beautiful and make it work on one’s brain the way it does. Watching the news of russian train crash last weekend and was overwhelmed with emotions so strong, your books do make you think: “What if?”. Dunno how you are doing this, but please go on, I havent read anything more striking in ages. Thank you, Lina

  93. I have just finnished reading the other hand I have really enjoyed it I found it very hard to put down would like to read more of your books Chris if they are as good as the other hand I will enjoy reading them.
    yours sincerely

  94. I have just finnished reading the other hand I have really enjoyed it I found it very hard to put down would like to read more of your books Chris if they are as good as the other hand I will enjoy reading them.
    yours sincerely

  95. Impossible to follow. How does Chris sleep at night with an imagination so huge and addressing wide world issues! Please write a third, even better book if you can. I feel bereft…

  96. I started and finished this book yesterday and was left heartbroken and unable to justify it’s brilliance to my nearest and dearest. Having just recently read The Other Hand I was keen to read another of your marvellous insights and boy, I wasn’t disappointed. A truly amazing story and agree with the comments above, felt frighteningly real.

  97. I am never without a book but I can honestly say that this moved more more than I can rememeber any other book doing before. It shocked me and scared me and also made me ache with a longing to help the protaganist who seems desperately vulnerable. I loved it even though the ending emotionally killed me!

  98. Started and finnished the book last night, compulsive reading to say the least, I loved the characters and was torn by laughing and crying. Feeling quite drained to say the least after such an emotional ride. Looking forward to Chris Cleave’s next book.

  99. just finished this book was the best book i have read in ages ,and i love reading
    didnt like her as a person tho 🙁 but great read thnx..didnt realise a film was being made will deffinately watch !

  100. just finished this book was the best book i have read in ages ,and i love reading
    didnt like her as a person tho 🙁 but great read thnx..didnt realise a film was being made will deffinately watch !

  101. Dear Chris Cleaves,

    I’ve just finished watching the movie of “Incendiary” with tears streaming down my face.
    It is unusual for me to see a film version of a book before actually reading the book, but I am confidant that the book will move me even more so. Don’t know how I missed it’s publication,
    will certainly seek it out.

    Best wishes,
    Nan Hadden

  102. Newsweek is right: this book is haunting. The title is right: this book burns. And Chris Cleave is right (no surprise there…), it is a story about a woman who loses her son, with all the simple sadness you would expect. But how brilliant!
    This book is a fiction? No way: it feels more real than any true story I have ever read, it got under my skin, far deeper than any other. I finished it 4 days ago and swear not 2 hours have passed without me thinking about it. The rest (the attack, the other characters, the social issues) does not matter much: what stays is the sober, raw, permanent painful feeling of sadness and loss. An amazing book.
    Chris, is there an antidote?

  103. Have to disagree with Nush, the inferences may have been missed by some but they were clear to me. The authorities’ stopping Muslims from working, the total failure to support the unknown woman through her grief, the ‘Shield of Hope’ barrage balloon rubbish, ‘brave’ Londoners selfishly worrying about their house prices and setting light to strangers’ cars in the midst of a bomb scare…. for me, it was all a very sad look at people’s petty attitudes and misdirected hatred.

  104. Just finished reading Incendiary and am disappointed to say the least. As a Muslim, I found it condescending and felt that it only promotes the already existing misconceptions of our religion.
    There is little or no mention of terrorism against Muslims, i.e. state terrorism, Guantanamo Bay, etc – with the exception of Mena.
    After reading The Other Hand I guess I was expecting much more and certainly not this type of story – I see enough bad propaganda in the media as it is.

  105. I do love your 2 books and the story is so shocking that u will probably find my comment on the use of the C word (more than twice) really shallow considering the bigger picture of the major shocking things BUT I just found it to be unneccessary and a word that I still find offensive when used in the wrong context. Just my opinion.

  106. Just finished reading “Incendiary”…..what can i say? I loved it…..the characters just came to life, and by the end of the book i felt that i knew them all on a personal level. Such a heartbreaking story, but also a story of hope! It was such a rollercoaster of emotions, one minute i was laughing, at the narrators sense of humour and her wit, the next i was crying.

  107. I started Incendiary last night, am already half way through and can’t wait to settle down and finish it tonight. Daytime reading deprivation is the curse of parents with young children….

  108. I’m still in the early stages of ‘Incendiary,’ but I’ve already fallen for the story’s narrator. She’s such a mass of contradictions it’s difficult not to. I used to know someone a lot like her…

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