book reviews , different studio guests each week. Join us every Thursday between 12 and 1pm on Radio Scilly 107.9fm or log on to radioscilly.com.

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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Iain Banks - Stonemouth

review by Malcolm Martland live on show 31st May 2012
From the Inside Flap
…Tough, funny, fast-paced and touching, Stonemouth cracks open adolescence, love, brotherhood and vengeance in a rite of passage novel like no other.

My Review:

Iain Banks is well known both for his SciFi novels like Consider Phlebas and traditional novels such as The Crow Road. Stonemouth is in the genre of The Crow Road and Steep Approach to Garbadale. It is a family drama based mainly around the lives of Stuart Gilmour and a wealthy but crooked family, the Murstons. The setting is Stonemouth a town near Aberdeen with a long beach and dominated by a suspension bridge over the Stoun irresistible to those of a tendency. It has been described as a rite of passage novel, one of those terms the literati band about but I think I understand the meaning. It is set in the present, Stuarts schooldays, adolescence, his almost marriage to Ellie Murston, and his exile to London.

The opening is of Stuart standing on the parapet of the bridge on a foggy day waiting for the Highway Maintenance team to collect him. The team are old pals and although surprised by his return to his home town to attend a funeral they are quite pleased to see him, especially as he was not about to jump. It is clear from the outset that there is a dark cloud hovering over Stuart.

Schoolday friends are just a group of pranksters, playing on the beach, running across the forbidden golf course, admiring the Murston Estate beyond. They first fall foul of the local hobnobs when one of the boy’s poo’s in a golf hole as a joke. They are seen and chased.

Despite this misdemeanour, and a little later in their lives the boys are invited to come and play at the Ancraime’s estate. They are a local wealthy family and one of the sons, Hugo, is away most of the year at public school and needs holiday friends. The mother buys him a set of 12 paintball guns and the lads set off. There is a slightly older Ancraime boy, George. George is not all-there mentally. For several outings they refuse to take him but on one fatal day he is allowed to come but not to handle a paintgun. One of their tasks is to give Wee Malky a two minute start on the estate, he wins if he survives 30 minute sor gets back to the car park without being splattered by a paintball. Halfway through the sortie the simple lad can’t be found but they carry on. Wee Malky is way ahead and the gang spot him trying to cross the dam wall of the estate reservoir. Halfway across the simpleton, George, appears at the bottom wielding a huge Scottish sword, taken from the house. Wee Malky slips down the dam wall and is promptly hacked to pieces with the sword, George smiling all the while. Up until this point I was comfortably plodding through the book but this unexpected turn startled me and hooked me into the power of the novel.

Stuart becomes involved with the Ellie Murston and they are a week away from marriage when a sudden indiscretion results in an acrimonious cancellation and the men of the Murston family set out to get him. It’s a kind of latterday, Romeo and Juliet from then on, things turn very nasty, but you’ll have to read it yourself if you want to find how it plays out.

Well recommended.

Malcolm Martland, broadcast on Radio Scilly 107.9FM, 31 May 2012.

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