Stewart Gilmour is back in Stonemouth. After five years in exile his presence is required at the funeral of patriarch Joe Murston, and even though the last time Stu saw the Murstons he was running for his life, staying away might be even more dangerous than turning up.
An estuary town north of Aberdeen, Stonemouth, with it's five mile beach, can be beautiful on a sunny day. On a bleak one it can seem to offer little more than seafog, gangsters, cheap drugs and a suspension bridge irresistible to suicides. And although there's supposed to be a temporary truce between Stewart and the town's biggest crime family, it's soon clear that only Stewart is taking this promise of peace seriously. Before long Stu steps back into the minefield of his past to confront his guilt and all that it has lost him, uncovering ever darker stories. Soon his homecoming takes a more lethal turn than even he had anticipated.
Tough, funny, fast-paced and touching, Stonemouth cracks open adolescence, love, brotherhood and vengeance in a rite of passage novel like no other.
The flower of Scotland's more than a wee bit wilted from drink and recreational drugs in this violent, funny, coming-of-age explosion from veteran Scottish novelist Banks (The Crow Road) set in moderately affluent Stonemouth, near Aberdeen. Some noxious native weeds, like the Murstons, a local crime family, are threatening to choke off narrator Stewart Gilmour now that he's returned after five years to pay his last respects to the clan's departed patriarch, Joe. Stu also has unfinished business with Ellie Murston, the girl he loves but left at the altar after the disastrous, hilarious disclosure of his boozy, coked-up pre-marriage fling. Stunning descriptions of coastal Scotland alternate with the rain-soaked violence of Ellie's brothers and Stu's painful flashbacks to his youth. His memories help him understand that beneath the "flash-hate" he's encountering, there's "something hurt and pathetic and raging." Banks ends by hopefully assuring us that even a land sapped by corrupt compromise and the "new orthodoxy" of materialism can bloom again.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Good but not great...
Another good Iain Banks story, gripping but not at his best.
It's good but it doesn't have the richness of The Crow Road or the brilliance of the Bridge. An almost return to form after a few less satisfying novels. Looking forward to the next one.
Banks back to his best
Family sagas, with all the mandatory intriguing and gradually revealed backstory, are what Banks does best. Akin to the tradition of Crow Road and Garbadale, the author takes us back to small town Scotland with a plethora of characters woven together by a narrative which pivots on one misdemeanour from five years previously.
The depictions of quite quirky, humorous, and sometimes alarming, events from past and present are set pieces which flow with ease from the writer's imagination. Spread over only a few days in present time, and supported by flashbacks, the pace is always kept up with the inevitable climax making for a more than satisfying conclusion, both on an intellectual and emotional level.