My favourite part of being a book blogger is definitely receiving books for review that I would never normally pick up through my own choice. I think I’m arguably quite a safe reader – sticking to genres that I know for a fact that I love rather than pushing myself to read stuff that I might actually enjoy within other genres. A few months ago, thanks to Grace Vincent and the lovely team at Virago, a Little, Brown imprint, I received a book that definitely fell outside my usual branch of reading but bewildered me in a way that I haven’t felt about a book in a long, long time. Short yet perfectly bittersweet, the book’s 210 pages were filled with wonderous writing and incredibly beautiful prose. The Incendiaries happens to be that book.
The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon follows two main characters, Will Kendall and Phoebe Lin, as they meet in their first month of studying at a prestigious university in the United States, and the occasional chapter from John Leal, a mysterious prophetic figure who runs an organised religious movement called ‘Jejah’ – the Korean word for ‘disciple.’ Both characters are driven by loss – Phoebe by the loss of her mother in a car accident caused by herself, and Will by the loss of his evangelical faith. As they grow closer to one another emotionally and physically, their paths, tragedy strikes, and Will commits an action that is both unforgivable and unforgettable. Phoebe makes the decision to further commit herself to John Leal and his cult, a decision that completely changes her, and ultimately Will’s, life forever, and becomes the culprit in bombing of a local abortion clinic that resulted in the death of 5 young and innocent girls.
At times, the prose was difficult to follow – you question who of the two characters is actually speaking, although I’ll leave the answer to this point up for discussion as I don’t want to spoil things too much for any potential readers. There are no inverted commas to indicate speech, which, as a primary school teacher, stressed me out to no end but there is perfectly good reason behind this grammatical choice. In spite of this, the language that Kwon uses in this book is sophisticated, beautiful and stark. It’s definitely a book that you ought to read in a single sitting, and I was lucky enough to do so – unputdownable, thought-provoking and to be frank, an absolute treat for the eyes and the brain. I 100% recommend The Incendiaries to everyone and anyone.