Unexploded

Long-listed for The 2013 Man Booker Prize for Fiction 

A ‘Book of the Year’ for the Observer

Unexploded is like a piece of finely wrought ironwork, uncommonly delicate but at the same time astonishingly strong and tensile; it’s a novel of staggering elegance and beauty.’ Lucy Scholes, THE INDEPENDENT

‘Full of simmering tension, resentment and unexpressed passion… A bold, cleverly-told story from a writer who knows exactly what she’s doing.’ Viv Groskop, THE OBSERVER

‘An exploration of the xenophobia and neurosis unleashed in times of national crisis …MacLeod remains one of the most astute… writing today.’ Alfred Hickling, THE GUARDIAN

‘The plot is fast-paced and engaging, the characters are compelling, and the descriptions of wartime Brighton are pin-sharp… The novel’s denouement is as heart-rending as it is unexpected.’ Rebecca Abrams, THE FINANCIAL TIMES

‘…the author’s grasp of emotions, and history of art as well as politics, lend depth and charge… [There is also] the sensuality of MacLeod’s prose, whether dealing with art, desire or love; and her uncanny way of allowing us to experience the thought processes of her characters as if they are traversing our own brain synapses.’ Leyla Sanai, THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

Unexploded is an unforgettable book. With exquisitely researched and rendered detail, the author plunges us into the panic and paranoia of war, fusing international politics, national politics and family politics in her powerful study of hypocrisy, oppression, cultural misunderstanding and desire.’ BIDISHA

Unexploded is an intelligent, perceptive novel by a writer of great descriptive power… Like her modernist forebears, Macleod knows that life and death, the terrible and the mundane always co-exist – her genius lies in illustrating these truths while simultaneously spinning a bona fide pageturner.’ Stephanie Cross, THE DAILY MAIL

‘This finely-wrought novel has all the intensity of focus of one of MacLeod’s wonderful short stories, yet brilliantly encompasses broad and difficult themes. She has bravely tackled a murky, little-documented area of our national history in which the less noble effects of war – paralysing fear, distrust, xenophobia and morbid self-interest – play havoc with a cast of unforgettable characters. They inhabit a world as vivid, frightening and ultimately fascinating as the bright green, torpedo-shaped cyanide capsules that lie buried in the dark heart of the novel.’   BOOKGROUP.INFO

Canadian edition

‘A book that brought me much delight this year was Unexploded by Alison MacLeod, the story of a married couple with a single child living in Brighton set in the early stages of the Second World War. Virginia Woolf makes a guest appearance, and the novel has Woolfian undertones, bringing to life as it does the struggle of a woman to find her place and role in a rapidly shifting world.’  Alexander Lucie-Smith, THE TABLET, Books of the Year

‘Brilliant and beautiful.  A fascinating insight into wartime Brighton and a deeply touching exploration of a marriage. An unforgettable, important novel.’  KATE WILLIAMS

‘It might not win the Booker, but it ought to.’  THE SUNDAY SPORT

‘Love, fear and prejudice are all skilfully anatomised in this compellingly intimate exploration of life in war time Brighton.’  JANE ROGERS

‘A persuasive period setting, an intricate plot, sumptuous prose’   Anthony Cummins, DAILY TELEGRAPH

‘Alison MacLeod brilliantly conjures a world of war and the collateral damage of lies and fear in Unexploded, her Booker-nominated novel…  The psychological acuity, the subtle exploration of emotions and the unveiling of unconscious betrayals within the novel are testament to the talent that places MacLeod among writers such as Colm Toibin, Jim Crace and Eleanor Catton on the Booker list… The novel thrums with the tension of the unexploded, in the very real form of bombs and in the detonation of emotional weaponry.’  Mary Jo Anderson, THE CHRONICLE HERALD (Canada)

‘redemptive…readable and entertaining’  Angus Clarke, THE TIMES

‘The ‘juxtaposition of art and abomination, of beauty and death, of the aesthetic and the barbaric is an abiding theme of this           magnificent novel about war and its emotional toll…. The research that has gone into the writing of Unexploded gives us a vivid rendering of the past, complete with period detail and historical markers, helped nonetheless by a finely-wrought language of great beauty and power.’ Rajat Chadhuri, IBN LIVE

‘a unique chapter from WWII history and a tightly plotted story that brims with passion, frailty and deceit’   Jennifer. S. Deayton, PRAIRIE SCHOONER

U.K. paperback

‘compelling…  Macleod’s narrative style manages the neat trick of both subtlety and ruthlessness, combining minute physical detail, evocative metaphor and unexpected directness to great effect. Unexploded was longlisted for the Booker, and I can see why. It’s not a happy book, but in its profound engagement with questions of identity and ideology, liminality and vulnerability, choices and coercions, it doesn’t need to be. It’s better than that.’  MARYLEBONE JOURNAL

‘War is, of course, one of the big subjects and so it is understandable that serious authors are attracted – if attracted is the right word – to it; at the same time, almost seventy years on, there is a concomitant sense of ennui (what else is there to say that hasn’t already been said?)…  Unexploded, Alison Macleod’s third novel, trumpets its context from the flyleaf – ‘May, 1940. Brighton. Wartime.’ – but it deftly stands apart from its wartime neighbours…   Macleod is astute, a good judge of the human condition, a writer able to create a powerful sense of place and time.  Highly recommended.’   BOOKMUNCH

‘magnetically compelling’   THE BOOKBAG

‘a sympathetic exploration of love, fear and how three lives changed…  Deservedly nominated for the Man-Booker Prize’ AHLAN!

a ‘delicately balanced and elegant book’   Suzanne Joinson, SUSSEX LIFE

‘an important writer’  Charlotte Heathcote, THE SUNDAY EXPRESS

‘The fragility of love and friendship is magnified under the lens of war. Tension ripples through each sentence, elevating… everyday conversations to the level of bullets and bombs.   …haunting beauty throughout.’   WE LOVE THIS BOOK Magazine

a ‘subtly drawn story…  MacLeod’s descriptions of destruction — “a morbid, confused carnival” — are riveting, not overdone. Her exploration of a home blown to smithereens is vivid but cool. It’s this detachment that somehow makes the devastation all the more frightening.’  WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

‘Finely wrought, moving and haunting. What a wonderful novel this is. Bravo Alison MacLeod.’  POLLY SAMSON