Do I dare suggest that Unexploded was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize because it speaks of the hardships the British living along the coast of the North Sea had to endure whilst waiting for Hitlers troops to arrive in 1940-1941? It cannot be because of its construction or the development of its characters: they are rather ramshackle to be honest.
While Brighton is waiting for the Germans, marital bliss has come to an end for Geoffrey and Evelyn. She cannot accept that he is prepared to leave his family in order to do his duty for king and country, she is even more upset that he has left cyanide pills for her and her son ‘in case of’. I must admit that I wouldn’t be overjoyed if my husband left me this gift, I find Evelyn’s immediate negative reaction towards her husband too much. MacLeod does not offer any other explanation except that husband and wife had grown apart. MacLeod does present us with a number of characters and incidents that make sure that they will never grow together again. And in doing so she resorts to a good number of clichés. First Geoffrey gets a lover (a Jewish Ukrainian pianist), next Evelyn (a Jewish German painter), their butcher shares Evelyn’s love for Virginia Woolf, their son gets involved with rather a nasty young fan of Mosley and Hitler, the jealousy of both husband and son eventually leads to the ‘intended’ accidental death of her lover. To top it all Evelyn is driven into her lovers arms when she finds out Virgina Woolf has committed suicide and arrives at his doorstep in tears. MacLeod has not managed to combine all the information she provides us with into a flowing narrative. I often found myself wondering why I was given certain information. At the end I could only conclude that MacLeod rather pushes the story through or throat. Unexploded could have been a gem if MacLeod had been more delicate with her subject.