Friday, 2 December 2011

Pack Men by Alan Bissett

Not Just For Football Fans
review by Maryom


2008 - Rangers are playing in the UEFA Cup Final in Manchester and hoards of their fans are travelling south to join in the party and watch the match - if not actually in the stadium - then on the next best thing, the huge screens erected around the city centre. Not a situation to end calmly. Among them are old friends Alvin, Frannie and Dolby - and Dolby's young son, Jack - on a mini bus packed with fans from Falkirk, for a lads' day out come reunion.

This has unfortunately been languishing for too long on the TBR pile as I'd picked it up, had a quick glance and dismissed it as a novel about football hooligans - oops, I should take a bit more care before I decide to write something off.

The story centres round Alvin, the only one of the group to leave Falkirk. He's been to university, now lives in Edinburgh and dreams of being a horror writer, how can he fit in with his old mates? From the first page the reader feels him wincing at being surrounded by the sectarianism and pack mentality of the bus's other fans. While he tries to hide his discomfort and blend back in for the day, it becomes apparent that he has a bigger secret that he doesn't want to share with even his closest mates.

Against this compelling story background Alan Bissett explores themes of sectarianism, belonging and how we are defined by class and/or religion. Read it for the surface plot or the thought provoking deeper issues - whichever, it's really enjoyable. Just don't make my mistake and reject it out of hand. Pack Men is not just a book for football fans - I've never watched a game in my life!

Warning - it is an Adult novel and sexually explicit.
Since reading pack Men, I've discovered it's effectively a sequel - the main characters appear in a previous Bissett novel, Boyracer, set about 10 years before. It's obviously not necessary to read this to enjoy Pack Men but I think it's now one to track down and see what additional insights it brings.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Hatchette Scotland 
Genre - Adult Fiction

Buy Pack Men from Amazon

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