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How to Make a Bomb A Novel

"Lyrical and explosive, this extraordinary novel lays bare an existential crisis, and the extreme possibilities this provokes in its protagonist."

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LoveReading Says

LoveReading Says

Moving from London and Bergen, to Cadiz and Crete before returning to London as it explores a middle-aged man’s visceral existential crisis, Rupert Thomson’s How to Make a Bomb presents an enthralling story of alienation, and feeling fragmented and trapped in a dislocating world: “If he suddenly found what surrounded him unbearable, it was because it was artificial/Everything had been designed and manufactured, and he was trapped in it”. A world in which, “We were surrounded by things we hadn’t asked for, and didn’t want/Things that upset or damaged us”.

With no full-stops and presented in verse rather than chunked into paragraphs, it’s a brilliant piece of writing that sees historian Philip return from a conference in Bergen with the feeling that “things could come apart quite quickly”. After confessing to his wife that he’s finding reality “unbearable”, he heads to Cadiz, hoping to reconnect with Inés, an academic he struck up a bond with in Bergen.

Realising he “could hardly go back to his old life”, Philip leaves Cadiz for Crete, to stay in the house of a couple he meets in his hotel. On the island, he wrestles with the fact that while he still loves his wife and son, he can’t live his former life, with encounters with villagers and monks also contributing to his fumbling quest to reconfigure himself. And all the while, “loneliness descended on him like a snowfall, delicate and cold”.

As Phillip seems set on a terrible, destructive course of action, How to Make a Bomb hurtles towards a potentially explosive conclusion as it aches with desperation and deluded ideas of finding a solution.

Joanne Owen

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