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The Glister by John Burnside

The Glister

by John Burnside

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
I'm stunned by how low the average rating us for this book! I absolutely fell in love with Burnside's way with words and devoured this book in a day. The "abstract" edge to the plot leaves room for great discussion. ( )
  PagesandPints | Sep 1, 2016 |
bookshelves: published-2008, one-penny-wonder, hardback, autumn-2013, lit-richer, bullies, boo-scary, plague-disease, tbr-busting-2013
Read from September 18 to October 22, 2013


Opening: Where I am now, I can hear the gulls.

Probably one of the most terrifying books I have ever read and no doubt The Moth Man will puzzle me to the end of time but oh, how I would have loved a decent ending - a full star drop right there.

Would recommend to no-one.

3.5* Glister
4* A Summer of Drowning
4* The Devil's Footprints ( )
  mimal | Jan 1, 2014 |
Darkly Scottish and full of adolescent angst, adult angst, and murderous angst. Great tone and characterizations. ( )
  willmurdoch | Nov 5, 2011 |
The Glister had a great premise: boys are disappearing in a small town that is dominated by an abandoned chemical plant. It seems certain that the plant has poisoned the town, both physically and mentally. The townspeople are deeply distrustful on the land where the plant was situated and of what went on there. Is it somehow responsible for the disappearances? I read the book and I still can’t tell you.

Leonard is a teenage boy living in Innertown, the wrong side of the tracks. Rich folks here live in Outertown (no hidden meaning there, I’m sure). His father is dying, probably from exposure to chemicals when he worked at the plant; lots of the folks in Innertown are coping with the fallout from the mysterious toxins they worked with, poison that seeped into the groundwater, twisted the trees and mutated the animals in the forest around the old plant. Still, Leonard feels most at home in those woods and he spends a lot of time alone there.

Sherriff John Morrison is crumbling under a load of guilt. He’s not responsible for the boy’s disappearances, but he’s responsible for the cover-up that has followed. Instead of calling for back-up and investigating the first body he found in the woods, he called Brian Smith, local millionaire…and murderer? Who can say?

This is one of those books that keeps you intrigued right up until the last moment. The final chapters take a turn for the metaphysical that lost me completely. I’ve heard it described as a treatise on good and evil, that Innertown is Purgatory before these boys go on to a better place, but I’m not sure I buy that. The ending certainly did not live up to the early chapters at least for me; they seem entirely mismatched. I found myself wanting to read either the ending that went with the intriguing mystery, or the more mystical build-up to the final strange chapters.
1 vote LisaLynne | Apr 24, 2011 |
Very well written, very atmospheric, mystery is well developed and characters are well drawn, but the central premise and conclusion were a bit too fantastical for me. ( )
  RobinDawson | Dec 29, 2010 |
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"Hist, then. How dost thou know that some entire, living, thinking thing may not be invisibly and uninterpenetratingly standing precisely where thou now standest; aye, and standing there in thy spite? In thy most solitary hours, then, dost thou not fear eavesdroppers?" --Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, or, The Whale
"Buoyed up by that coffin, for almost one whole day and night, I floated on a soft and dirge-like main. The unharming sharks, they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths; the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks. On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after he missing children, only found another orphan." --Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, or, The Whale
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Book description
The children of Innertown exist in a state of suspended terror. Every year or so, a boy from their school disappears, vanishing into the wasteland of the old chemical plant. Nobody knows where these boys go, or whether they are alive or dead, and without evidence the authorities claim they are simply runaways.

The town policeman, Morrison knows otherwise. He was involved in the cover-up of one boy's murder, and he believes all the boys have been killed. Though he is seriously compromised, he would still like to find out the killer's identity.

The local children also want to know and, in their fear and frustration, they turn on Rivers, a sad fantasist and suspected paedophile living alone at the edge of the wasteland. Trapped and frightened, one of the boys, Leonard, tries to escape, taking refuge in the poisoned ruins of the old plant; there he finds another boy, who might be the missing Liam and might be a figment of his imagination. With his help, Leonard comes to understand the policeman's involvement, and exacts the necessary revenge - before following Liam into the Glister: possibly a disused chemical weapons facility, possibly a passage to the outer world.

A terrifying exploration of loss and the violence that pools under the surface of the everyday, Glister is an exquisitely written, darkly imagined novel by one of our greatest contemporary writers.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385527640, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, March 2009: George Lister's secretive chemical plant fueled Innertown's economy for decades, but since its closure, its legacies are poverty, clusters of rare cancers, and a local wilderness populated with rumors of an unnatural selection of misshapen wildlife. When Mark Wilkinson--the first of several teen-aged boys to disappear every 12-18 in the coming years--is found hanged in the "poison woods" over a bizarre shrine of boughs, glass, and tinsel, the town constable chooses to cover up the atrocity (to the pleasure of Innertown's corrupt string-pullers), leaving the town's long-abandoned youth to take responsibility themselves. The Glister is a strange and affecting book, working as both simmering horror and a Dennis Lehane-style thriller: think The Blair Witch Project meets Mystic River meets It. Burnside's deliberate prose strikes a pitch-perfect balance between the insidious banalities of industrial society and the unacknowledged horrors lurking in the varicose network of cracks in its crumbling foundations, the spaces where institutionalized cowardice and naïve accountability meet to settle the fates of a damaged society's innocents. It's a story that will stay with you long after its last harrowing pages. --Jon Foro

Amazon Exclusive: Jim Crace Reviews The Glister

Jim Crace is the author of nine novels, including Being Dead, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize and won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2000. In 1997, Quarantine was named the Whitbread Novel of the Year and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Crace has also received the Whitbread First Novel Award, the E.M. Foster Award, and the Guardian Award. Here he reviews John Burnside’s The Glister for Amazon:

I lent my copy of John Burnside’s The Glister to a friend the moment I finished it. I wanted her to share the novel’s troubled beauty and its bleak but tender outlook on the urban predicament, the state of the nation, the human condition--well, pretty much everything. “It’s a triple murder mystery,” I explained. “Teenage boys are being wiped out. So is the landscape where they live.” In my view, The Glister was not only a thrilling and engaging read but an unusually multi-layered and nuanced work of startling transcendence and importance. No one could think otherwise. Everyone should try it.

She said she was puzzled by the last scene, yet only a few weeks later she was recommending The Glister to her reading group and naming it her Novel of the Year. “So, you read it again?” I asked. But no, she hadn’t needed to encounter it a second time. As soon as she had finished its final page, a little baffled by its meaning, the story had started haunting her. It brewed in her subconscious as all great fiction does until, level by level, the book’s unnerving ambiguities began to clarify themselves, she was getting it. “It’s a sleeper,” she said, mixing her metaphors. “It creeps up on you.”

My experience of The Glister has been much the same. It is a novel with an afterlife. It continues to steep in my imagination one year after reading it and to imprint its indelible images on to my comprehension of the modern world. I now cannot help but recognize Burnside’s devastated, weed-choked Innertown in almost every industrial city that I visit on both sides of the Atlantic. And I better understand the dangerous boredom of those adolescent gangs on street corners throughout the world, their brutal, plucky hopelessness. But most importantly the novel has taught me that if we want to find an optimistic narrative to help us cope with our failing cities, their increasingly toxic landscapes and their splintered families, we have to hunt for it, as Burnside has, in the darkest corners and in the most menacing of company and not deceive ourselves with bright, narcotic fairytales.

Quite what the glister of the title is, I cannot say for sure. The novel doesn’t want to tell me exactly. It wants me to be teased. But I’m still brewing on the question, I’m still haunted by the book. There is no greater praise than that. --Jim Crace

(Photo © Lorentz Gullachsen)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:27 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Ever since George Lister's chemical plant shut down, the neighboring woods have become the home to strange, sickly plants, and when a young boy named Leonard and his friends realize that boys from their school are vanishing after venturing into the poisoned woods, they alone are willing to confront the forces of evil that are destroying their once-happy town.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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