The Great Explosion
Gunpowder, the Great War, and A Disaster on the Kent MarshesBook - 2016
A masterful account of a terrible disaster in a remarkable place: shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize
In April 1916, shortly before the commencement of the Battle of the Somme, a fire started in a vast munitions works located in the Kentish marshes. The resulting series of explosions killed 108 people and injured many more.
In a brilliant piece of storytelling, Brian Dillon recreates the events of that terrible day - and, in so doing, sheds a fresh and unexpected light on the British home front in the Great War. He offers a chilling natural history of explosives and their effects on the earth, on buildings, and on human and animal bodies. And he evokes with vivid clarity one of Britain's strangest and most remarkable landscapes - where he has been a habitual explorer for many years. The Great Explosion is a profound work of narrative, exploration and inquiry from one of our most brilliant writers.
'The Great Explosion is exhilarating and moving and lyrical . It is a quiet evisceration of a landscape through the discovery of a lost history of destructiveness, a meditation on Englishness, an autobiography, a mapping of absences. I loved it.' Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with Amber Eyes
' 'What a fascinating, unclassifiable, brilliant book, confirming Brian Dillon's reputation as one of our most innovative and elegant non-fictioneers. No one else could have written it.' Robert Macfarlane, author of The Old Ways
'Forensic, fascinating, endlessly interesting' Philip Hoare , Samuel Johnson Prize-winning author of Leviathan and The Sea Inside
'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
'A brilliant evocation of place grasped in its modernity' Guardian
'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' Ian Thomson, Irish Times
' Exhilarating ... utterly beguiling' Literary Review