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The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills
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The Restraint of Beasts (1998)

by Magnus Mills

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (18)  Danish (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Oh, what a dark comedy read was this. I think I can even still hear the pounding of the fences being driven into the ground by the loafers who take pride in their lack of ambition. Of course, this book isn't about fence-building, but it's not about employment either. It's not about Scotland either. There.

Everything builds very slowly, and I, being the fool that I am, stayed right in step, believing the author was moving down one path, when he was taking me elsewhere. By the time I realized what was happening, it was just too late to retreat. Funny but serious.

The nice folks in the nice town of Portland recommended this one to me...which makes me start to wonder about the denizens of the Rose City.


Book Season = Autumn (find a pub)


( )
2 vote Gold_Gato | Sep 16, 2013 |
A very odd book, yet very engaging. Who knew that installing fences in wet English weather could be so entertaining! And who knew anyone could drink as much as these three. I'm a bit surprised that it was shortlisted for the Booker. The ending left a great deal to be desired but I enjoyed the journey with this trio of wastrels. ( )
  RobinDawson | May 30, 2013 |
This was unnerving, comical, and plodding (but without being slow). Some of the comedy is uncanny and quite possibly misdirected, so that you can tell something about the scene you're reading is funny, but you're not quite sure what. Repeat that sentence, replacing funny, also, with "ominous", and "gruesome", and you cover most of what happens. Enjoyable to read, though I couldn't exactly say why. I'll probably be re-reading this later, and also seeking out other Magnus Mills to figure out whether or not I actually liked this book. ( )
  bnewcomer | Apr 2, 2013 |
Building high-tensile fences should be a boring repetitive routine job. Dig some holes, place some posts, string some wire. Repeat until the beasts are restrained behind their new wire homes. This slightly inept crew somehow manages to create a body count with their laid-back, carefree attitude fence building. That's not the payoff with reading this book though. That would be the sparse, lazy, meandering dialogue where little is spoken but much is said. I found myself wondering if [[Elmore Leonard]] might have a son that emigrated to the UK to pursue his writing craft. I wouldn't read this expecting fireworks but with the attitude of slowly drifting down a calm stream with the occasional hidden underwater object to render a jolt or two in the otherwise profanely serene waters. ( )
  VisibleGhost | Jan 10, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Magnus Millsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moppes, Rob vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'I'm putting you in charge of Tam and Richie,' said Donald.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684865114, Paperback)

Good fences may make good neighbors, but in Magnus Mills's first novel, bad fences make for high tension indeed. An eerie noir fable told in a grim, deadpan voice, The Restraint of Beasts begins as an unnamed English fence builder finds himself promoted to foreman over Tam and Richie, two undermotivated Scots laborers. They've just been sent out to fix a high-tension fence when events go horribly awry--and that's just the beginning. For the rest of the novel, as his charges drink, smoke, loaf, and pound the occasional post, things go wrong over and over again. In a sense, that's all you can truly rely on in Mills's fictional world. It is not giving away too much to say that with these particular fencers on the job, you'd best watch your back. And your front, for that matter. And maybe keep a firm eye on the skies, just in case.

The team travels south to England, where they live out of a damp, cold caravan in the town of Upper Bowland. They're soon at loggerheads with the sinister Hall brothers, whose business enterprises seem to combine fencing, butchering, sausage-making, and a fierce attachment to school meals. "We committed no end of good deeds!" cries John Hall. "Yet still we lost the school dinners! Always the authorities laying down some new requirement, one thing after another! This time is seems we must provide more living space. Very well! If that's the way they want it, we'll go on building fences for ever if necessary! We'll build pens and compounds and enclosures! And we'll make sure we never lose them again!"

In between placing Kafkaesque obstacles in his narrator's path, Mills seeds his debut with small, darkly comic touches: Tam's father, whom we last see erecting a stockade round his house "to stop you from coming home any more"; the sound of Richie's Black Sabbath tapes "slowly being stretched in an under-powered cassette player"; the caravan's encroaching squalor; An Early Bath for Thompson, the book that Richie tries without success to read. No doubt about it, The Restraint of Beasts is a strange novel that only grows stranger as it progresses; with luck, it augurs more brilliant, odd work from Mills. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Written by a London bus driver, The Restraint of Beasts is a queasy, spooky, murderously funny tale - with no adverbs. Tam and Richie are dour Scots labourers who, when sent to a farmsite by their boss, despatch one client after another.

» see all 3 descriptions

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