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About the book
  • Published: 24 June 2015
  • ISBN: 9781844882816
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $49.99

The Great Explosion: Gunpowder, the Great War, and a disaster on the Ke nt marshes


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The Great Explosion is a profound work of narrative, exploration and inquiry from one of our most brilliant writers.

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 remarkable 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 the interaction of human imperatives and the natural world in one of Britain's strangest and most distinctive 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
'Forensic, fascinating, endlessly interesting, Brian Dillon's personal journey into explosive territory is a gripping account of disaster and ingenuity.  His language is never less than brilliant: in a quiet, measured manner, he sums up apocalyptic scenes and human stories.  With accustomed literary skill, marshalling intriguing facts and an acute historical sensitivity, The Great Explosion travels from the 21st century back to the Great War, turning industrial chaos and deathly hardware into something oddly, evanescently beautiful.'  Philip Hoare
'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
Praise for Tormented Hope:
'It's so good that, after reading it, I needed a lie-down.'  Hilary Mantel, Guardian Books of the Year
'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
'Illuminating, humane and beautiful.'  Independent

  • Pub date: 24 June 2015
  • ISBN: 9781844882816
  • Imprint: Penguin General UK
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $49.99

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