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Submergence
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The second novel by the author of the highly praised Giraffe.

About the Author

J. M. Ledgard was born in 1968. He is a foreign correspondent for The Economist
in Africa.

Reviews

"An ambitious narrative that is stark, serene and contemplative...[it] achieves the ultimate goal of any writer: it makes us pause and think, and think again" * Irish Times *
"it's the only fiction I've read in the last few years that has left me open-mouthed" -- David Hepworth * Word *
"Writing of awesome power. In a profound meditation on cruelty, pity, belief, art, science, hope, love and mortality, the novel's truths settle in your consciousness, perhaps never to be forgotten" * Independent *
"JM Ledgard's eclectic and philosophical novel ranges far wider than this latest manifestation of the 'war on terror'... Ledgard creates a prose poem of ideas and images that hops and flits with inspiration" * Metro *
"Submergence succeeds, and is immensely pleasurable, because Ledgard's magnetic north - though incessantly insisted on - is such an uncanny, inhuman and deathly place" -- Toby Litt * New Statesman *

This beautifully written novel, the second from Ledgard (after Giraffe), a correspondent for the Economist based in Africa, tells two stories in parallel. James More, a British spy posing as a water engineer, is taken captive by jihadists in Somalia; the counterpoint to this viscerally horrific tale is his love affair with Danielle Flinders, a "biomathematician" working in the field of oceanography. The affair is related as a series of flashbacks from a recent vacation in France. The book is told in short, episodic chapters that probably reflect the journalistic sensibilities of the author, who not only captures the enormous barbarity of More's al-Qaeda captors but also manages to convey some of their innate humanity. But there is no sentimentalizing of the evils of the jihadists, "empowered by the prospect of martyrdom" and comforted by a "medieval" fatalism. (In one horrifying scene, a young girl in Kismayo, Somalia, is gang-raped-then "convicted" of adultery by the local Muslim cleric and sentenced to death by stoning.) Danielle's milieu, the deep ocean (which "challenges our sense of who we are and where we came from"), offers a contrast to the gruesome and misguided efforts of Islamic fundamentalism. The book is exciting in the way of a thriller, though Ledgard seems uninterested in maintaining or even developing that sense of suspense. What makes the book remarkable is its poetically rendered and remarkably intelligent glosses on Islamic fundamentalism versus the West, on Africa, and on the oceans. This may be more of a novel of ideas than a novel full stop, but it is profoundly readable and unfailingly interesting. Agent: Gillon Aitken, Aitken Alexander Associates. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Directed by the Secret Intelligence Service to assess al Qaeda activities in Somalia, Nairobi-based Englishman James More poses as a water consultant but is promptly taken prisoner by jihadists when he arrives in Kismayo and is confined to a lightless, vermin-infested room before being marched through the unforgiving Somali landscape. While marching, he recalls meeting Danielle Flinders the previous Christmas at France's Hotel Atlantic, where they conducted a discreet, sparring affair. Half-Australian, half-Martiniquan, and coolly independent, Danny is on a journey of her own. A mathematician who applies her skills to the study of ocean life, she's preparing to plunge deep into the ocean underworld, an almost unnatural act that "challenges our sense of who we are." Since Ledgard wrote the coruscating Giraffe, which used a herd's destruction in communist-era Czechoslovakia to explore totalitarian thinking, it's no surprise that he offers not just an acute portrait of a man and a woman on the edge (or dangerously submerged) but an almost defiantly intensive novel of ideas. As Ledgard concludes, utopias come and go, but the intractable laws of survival in a damaged world and "the comfort of collective awareness" are what matter. VERDICT Highly recommended for thinking readers.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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