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The Great Explosion


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About the Author

Brian Dillon is the author of In the Dark Room, a memoir that won the Irish Book Award for Nonfiction 2005, and Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives, which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize 2009. He teaches at the Royal College of Art.


It's so good that, after reading it, I needed a lie-down -- Hilary Mantel * Guardian Books of the Year (on Tormented Hope) *
Written with great elegance and shrewd understanding, it illuminates a condition that probably all of us will suffer from at some time in our lives -- William Boyd * Guardian Books of the Year (on Tormented Hope) *
A mini-masterpiece * Observer (on Tormented Hope) *
Illuminating, humane and beautiful * Independent (on Tormented Hope) *
[Dillon's] main interest lies in the discovery that these natural wastes are also littered with the often strangely inscrutable debris of various human projects. More like a derelict art installation than a conventional landscape, his marsh is a place where semi-wild horses graze among derelict remnants of brick and concrete, where the howling wind uses rusted wire as a gibbet on which to hang tattered fragments of plastic from the sea, and where you can walk on paths that have outlasted the buildings and jetties to which they once led. For some, these once-malarial wetlands may be no more than a vast brownfield site waiting for another round of development. Dillon, however, recognises them as the true face of a nation "haunted" by its military-industrial past: a habitat not just of plants and wild creatures but of peopled "stories" that can never be pulled fully clear of the mud. ... a brilliant evocation of place grasped in its modernity * Guardian *
A subtle, human history of the early twentieth century ... Explosions are a fruitful subject in Dillon's hands, one that enables him to reflect movingly on the instant between life and death, on the frailty of human endeavour, and on the readiness of nations to tear one another apart. The Great Explosion deftly covers a tumultuous period of history while centring on the tiniest moments - just punctuation marks in time * Financial Times *
[Dillon's] account of the Faversham explosion is as bold as it is dramatic, while his descriptive passages about the marshlands of Kent are so evocative that you can practically feel the mud sticking at your feet * Evening Standard *
Dillon ... has a WG Sebald-like gift for interrogating the landscape ... a work of real elegiac seriousness that goes to the heart of a case of human loss and destruction in England's sinister pastures green * Irish Times *
A compelling account of a little-known aspect of British history * Irish Examiner *
Instead of a piece of nature writing, The Great Explosion is an excavation - not of a landscape but of a kind of estuary modernism, an account of what Dillon calls the "unnatural history" of the Kent marshes and its associations with the manufacture of high explosives. ... The result is exhilarating... The Great Explosion is a barrage of stimulating connections, digressions and narrative about-turns that is both fundamentally strange and utterly beguiling. * Literary Review *

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