Monday, 2 July 2012

Stonemouth by Iain Banks

review by Maryom

Stonemouth is a seaside town in the North-east of Scotland with a long sandy beach stretching into the distance, a suspension bridge from which a high number of people fall - or are pushed - and two rather kindly paternalistic mafia-style families in charge.

5 years ago, Stewart Gilmour made a mistake and managed to so offend the Murston family that he had to leave town - in a very speedy, very undignified manner. Now he's been allowed back to attend the funeral of  Joe Murston, but with younger angrier family members around still looking for revenge, Stewart doesn't feel too sure about his own long-term health. Could returning be an even bigger mistake?

Stonemouth is one of Iain Banks' more straightforward stories, told solely from Stewart's point of view with flashbacks to his childhood and teen years - there's none of the alternative personalities or multiple narrators of some of his more complex novels. After years of running away, Stewart needs to face the scene of his crime and the people he offended. The reader is teased along with gradual revelations of the relationship between Stewart and Ellie, the girl he's always loved - with a big build up to why he had to leave in such a hurry. On a first read this should come as a big surprise BUT Iain Banks himself gave it away - well almost. A while ago he came to our almost-local Waterstones as part of the promotion tour for Stonemouth, which is where and when I bought my book, a signed copy!! Anyway, as part of the evening he read an extract from the book and immediately upon getting home I tracked  it down in the book and re-read it.... and a page or two extra - this was the big scene that everything was building up to!! Ok there are more twists and turns to the plot after that but I really shouldn't have read this section first.

It's not as great or as complex as The Crow Road or The Bridge, which are my personal Banks' favourites, and not as convoluted as the last I read, Transition, but it's an entertaining fast-paced read of love, betrayal and revenge. An excellent introduction to Iain Banks if for some mysterious reason you haven't discovered him yet.

Another read to include in Subtle Melodrama's Scottish Summer Reading Challenge.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher -
Little, Brown
Genre - adult fiction

 Buy Stonemouth from Amazon

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