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Stonemouth by Iain Banks
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Stonemouth (2012)

by Iain Banks

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Not absolutely at his best and maybe less challenging than some of his works, this stills shows Banks's ability to draw fascinating characters with depth, and to paint a strong picture of the world within which they live without drowning the book with superfluous description. A good solid Banks without it making it onto "will definitely read again" list. ( )
  malcrf | Sep 10, 2017 |
And we're back.

Banks's recent contemporary novels have been rather disappointing. All too often his characters became mouthpieces for his polemic and vitriol about the current state of the world. So it is with great pleasure that I can say that Stonemouth is a resounding return to form.

Banks is on familiar ground here. A Scottish town, dark secrets, family feud and things left unfinished. But while The Steep Approach to Garbadale felt forced at times, Stonemouth is more fluid and is a much better story. The protagonist, Stewart Gilmour, returns home after five years away in London, having been run out of Stonemouth on the eve of his wedding to the love of his life, Ellie Murston, by her brothers. He's back for the funeral of Ellie's grandfather, Joe, but is soon warned off from even looking at Ellie in the wrong way by the Murston clan.

Stewart links up with old friends and there are a series of flashbacks that fill in the back story of the various characters. His first meeting with Ellie; teenage adventures involving the Murston brothers; the fateful events at a wedding reception, the week before his own, that led to him fleeing Stonemouth. All this is told in Banks's easy to read writing style and he moves the story along nicely over the weekend of the funeral, to the point where the shocking conclusion ties up the loose ends.

The characters are well drawn and you believe in them, which is always the sign of a good novel.

All in all I'd say this is his best contemporary novel since The Crow Road and I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good story, well told. Welcome back Mr Banks. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
Readable, but not half as good as Crow Road or Garbadale. ( )
  mlfhlibrarian | Jul 10, 2016 |
While there are familiar elements to the story, it being set in small town Scotland, it is a new tale from Ian Banks. The story is told in a first person point of view style, and on a first reading at least, realistically leaves some loose ends where the protagonist cannot be sure of who did what and why.

Taking place over a long weekend the story unfolds with a mixture of narrative and flashbacks to explain the background relationships and the reasons why Stewart Gilmour ended up an exile from his home town. There is a believable cast of characters, they all seem real and with complex motivations, even the low-key gangster types. The underlying plot is one of relationships and how they interplay over time. It also covers some of the issues of the Scottish diaspora well, how it feels to return to your hometown and meet your school friends who have stayed. I could empathise well with those thoughts.

Overall definitely worth reading, the story got me hooked after about 50 pages or so and I took an extended lunch and then stayed up late to keep on reading it. I think it will probably stand up well to a second reading to check on some of the clues uncovered later in the book. I also reckon it would make a very good TV drama, with lots of interpersonal interplay. ( )
  jmkemp | Jul 5, 2016 |
Stonemouth by Iain Banks is set in a small town in Scotland as Stewart Gilmour returns to attend a funeral. He has had to ask for special dispensation from the local crime boss to come home as 5 years ago he did something that changed the course of his life and caused the crime family to lose face. Although the father allows him to come, his sons are not quite so happy to see him.

This was a simple, darkly brooding story as Stewart comes back to face his past. The author delivers his story in a slightly acerbic style with an overabundance of profanity that at times was a little jarring but every so often there would be sections that were haunting and foreboding yet so beautifully written that I was totally drawn into this story. Each character was well drawn and complete. They each had their own motives for acting as they did although the author often took his time about revealing this. Through most of the book we learn about Ellie, Stewart’s lost love, through the words of other people but I found when she finally appeared she was well able to dominate the page.

A coming-of-age story, a crime thriller and a slightly strange romance story, Stonemouth was an interesting, atmospheric read delivered by an author who appears to be equally talented at portraying nostalgia and violence. I had previously read his novel The Wasp Factory so I was a little surprised that there wasn’t some shocking twist in Stonemouth, but the author played it straight and simply kept to his story of past and present relationships. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Jan 6, 2016 |
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On a bleak day Stonemouth can seem to offer little more than sea-fog, gangsters, cheap drugs and a suspension bridge irresistible to suicides. There is supposed to be a truce between Stewart Gilmour and the town's biggest crime family when he returns for a funeral, but it is soon clear that only he is taking this promise of peace seriously.… (more)

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