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Tinderbox by Megan Dunn


Tinderbox is a great novel, rich with themes of fire and burning, from Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451, with its portrayal of a book-burning dystopia, to the SparkNotes used to study it and even the Kindle which Megan Dunn sold when she worked for Borders bookstores. Even down to the poke she takes at Jodi Picoult…burn!


I love a good complex plot, with more than one narrative unfolding. If I tell you about three or four in Tinderbox, that will still leave plenty to uncover. Megan describes her task:


‘My homage to Fahrenheit 451 was going to be a searing feminist rewrite of Bradbury’s classic, like Jean Rhy’s Wide Sargasso Sea, only blonder.’


We watch Ray Bradbury working on a pay-by-the-hour typewriter and then delve into the French director Francois Truffaut’s film version of the book made in 1966. It was to be his only English speaking film and starred Julie Christie. And her perfect hair. Megan is trying to write about all this for her NaNoWriMo entry, a competition to write 50,000 words in a month. Only 1,666.66667 words a day. The book is partly about her writing a book, but it also charts her experiences working for the failed Borders bookstore chain in various places around the UK. We delve into book marketing and the terrible realisation that selling stationary was where the profit lay. In-house Starbucks and the horrors of the customer toilet are also in there. Megan uses her iPhone to allocate snatches of time to her writing. “The timer went off” becomes the much repeated mantra of her writing life, and a great way of closing down one storyline and switching to another.


I loved the humour, the mischievous sense of fun that percolates through the book. Dan Brown takes quite a pasting, not to mention this wonderful jibe, “A new Jodi Picoult felt about as sincere as a cheeseburger. Take off the wrapper and the moral dilemma lay in the centre like a gherkin, ready to be digested.” Megan doesn’t let the fact that she has never read a Jodi Picoult stand in the way of her passing judgement. I feel the same about Jeffrey Archer.


This is a witty, erudite and engaging book that deserves a wider readership. There are so many levels and part of its appeal is the ability to launch the reader on other journies. I watched some of Truffaut's film on YouTube, and the the questions asked in an interview for a creative writing course set me thinking about all manner of literary influences and styles. Tinderbox falls under the increasingly popular genre of creative non-fiction and is a great show case. I dare you not to laugh out loud.


Reviewer: Marcus Hobson

Publisher Galley Beggar Press, RRP $30

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