Alison MacLeod - Unexploded (1 star)

Alison MacLeod - Unexploded

WWII love story suffers from unimaginative narrative, heavy-handed themes, bad prose and flat characters

(Hamish Hamilton)

With its cover imitating the design for Ian McEwan’s bestseller Atonement, there’s clearly a hope that Unexploded can capitalise on that success. However, with its unimaginative narrative, heavy-handed themes, bad prose, and flat characters, it‘s utterly bamboozling why Alison MacLeod’s WWII book was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Living in Brighton with Geoffrey, her banker husband turned internment camp superintendent, Evelyn begins an affair with a German-Jewish detainee. Exploring relevant themes such as imprisonment without trial, racism and the costs of war, Unexploded could have been a blistering piece. Sadly, we’re let down by pointless description, a pedestrian plot riddled with cliché and overuse of simile and metaphor.

A paragraph comparing love to war that begins, ‘There is no invasion as fearful as love’, sums up all that’s wrong with Unexploded, although possibly superseded by the obsession with how Geoffrey’s testicles feel: ‘his testicles ached pleasurably’ and ‘his testicles felt leaden’. If you’re after a book that conjures up WWII, does the weighty subject justice and gets under your skin, this isn’t it.

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