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Stonemouth [Hardcover]

Iain Banks
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Hardcover, Jan. 15 2013 CDN $22.00  
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Book Description

Jan. 15 2013
Stewart Gilmour is back in Stonemouth. After five years in exile his presence is required at the funeral of patriarch Joe Murston, and even though the last time Stu saw the Murstons he was running for his life, staying away might be even more dangerous than turning up. An estuary town north of Aberdeen, Stonemouth, with it's five mile beach, can be beautiful on a sunny day. On a bleak one it can seem to offer little more than seafog, gangsters, cheap drugs and a suspension bridge irresistible to suicides. And although there's supposed to be a temporary truce between Stewart and the town's biggest crime family, it's soon clear that only Stewart is taking this promise of peace seriously. Before long a quick drop into the cold grey Stoun begins to look like the soft option, and as he steps back into the minefield of his past to confront his guilt and all that it has lost him, Stu uncovers ever darker stories, and his homecoming takes a more lethal turn than even he had anticipated. Tough, funny, fast-paced and touching, Stonemouth cracks open adolescence, love, brotherhood and vengeance in a rite of passage novel like no other.
--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Review

Readable, gripping ... One of his best -- Evening Standard William Leith To create an emotionally satisfying while intellectually convincing ending is a rare achievement ... Beguiling -- Stuart Kelly Guardian 'There is more than a shade of Pip and Estella in Stewart and Ellie, and to create an emotionally satisfying while intellectually convincing ending is a rare achievement ... Beguiling Guardian The mythology of Stewart's past, and of Stonemouth itself, is utterly absorbing. Addictive, funny, and brilliantly observed Daily Mail Banks at his waspish, intelligent, nuanced best. His fans will give thanks Scotland on Sunday --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. He has since gained enormous popular and critical acclaim for both his mainstream and his science fiction novels. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars excellence. March 16 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Banks, Thank you.

This was excellent as usual. I'll miss your turn of phrase. My Banks addiction will be going sadly unfulfilled.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A good vacation book. Feb. 15 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The first time I have read this author. Not riveting, but the characters and the storyline are memorable enough to enable you to put the book down, pick it up later, and just continue reading.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  49 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A weekend journey of discovery Oct. 15 2012
By TChris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With the addition of a middle initial to his name, Iain Banks writes immensely entertaining science fiction novels, with fast-moving action and tongue-in-cheek attitude. Without the middle initial, Banks writes novels that have the heft, characters, and prose of serious literature. Stonemouth is one of the latter, and it is a small gem.

Stewart Gilmour returns on a Friday to Stonemouth, his hometown in northeast Scotland, for the funeral of Joe Murston, an elderly man he befriended in his teen years. Stewart had been run out of town five years earlier by the Murston family for reasons that are only hinted at until the story is two-thirds done. His safe readmission to Stonemouth requires him to make nice with Joe's son Donnie, one of Stonemouth's two resident crime lords, who warns Stewart to leave no later than Tuesday and to stay away from Donnie's daughter Ellie. Stewart, of course, harbors the distant hope that it isn't quite over with Ellie and can think of nothing except seeing her again.

Stonemouth is a weekend journey of discovery. Stewart reviews the past and rethinks the present as he visits old friends and lovers. He learns the full truth (or as near to it as he will likely ever come) about the incident that caused his banishment from Stonemouth. The novel's early chapters alternate sly and amusing and tragic observations about the perils of being young with moments of unexpected tenderness. The later chapters give Stewart the chance to come to terms with his mistakes as he decides whether to let go of his past or to make it the foundation of his future.

The principle characters, and Stonemouth itself, are skillfully developed. Stewart and Ellie are particularly nuanced, but even the minor characters have personalities that transcend the stereotypes they could easily have become. Stewart has changed since leaving Stonemouth (not always in ways that suit him); Ellie is changing; the male Murstons, like the town of Stonemouth itself, resist change with the force of ... well, stone. It is the conflict between the inevitability of change and the intractability of family tradition that animates the story.

An atmosphere of danger hangs over the novel as Stewart goes about his business: a chance encounter with Ellie's flirtatious sister; a brutal encounter with Ellie's brothers; a tense encounter with a thug in a pool hall; an obligatory visit with the town's other crime boss, Mike MacAvett, and with Mike's daughter Jel, who represents a different sort of danger. Banks deftly juggles the gentleness of a love story with sudden bouts of violence, letting tension build intermittently until the story reaches a thundering climax.

Banks' strength as a science fiction author is his ability to tell an engrossing story. His strength in Stonemouth is his ability to tell an engrossing story with literary flair. If I could, I would give Stonemouth 4 1/2 stars.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Actually written by Francis Bacon? May 30 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A real surprise. I have all his books, and love them all, but this was a real surprise. Wonderfully written, of course, but quite different from all his other books. None of the usual shocks / irony / cheerful brutality / etc. In a sense, not much more than "just" two love stories (Stu's love of El, and Stu's love of coastal Scotland).

The feel of the novel is so markedly different that, about half way through, I even toyed with the idea that it was ghost written! But no, it's Banks alright; just a quieter and gentler Banks. Getting a bit older, Iain?

But, as always, a rollicking good yarn and well worth the read.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read for anyone who loves Scotland. May 13 2012
By P. McCLEAN - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I enjoyed Stonemouth for many reasons. To begin with, while the location in the book was made up it came across as very real, as did the characters.

In addition, as someone who moved away from my hometown I could relate to Stewart (Stu) Gilmore's feelings about returning home. (Not that I was run out of my hometown by gangsters.) Iain Banks caught the sense of returning home and finding oneself in familiar surroundings where things appear to have never changed, time never to have moved on, and yet you feel different.

I liked the way facts about Stu's life in Stonemouth were revealed and Iain's treatment of Stu's interaction with old friends and companions wrung true. His treatment of Stu's conflicting thoughts and internal reasoning about how his former girlfriend would react to him felt realistic.

The first half of the novel moved relatively slowly and I did wonder if I would have read it had it not been an Iain Banks novel. However, about halfway through it picked up the pace and I found myself not wanting to put it down. In fact, I had to force myself to put the book down at 1am on a midweek night so that I could get some sleep. (I only had twenty pages left at the time and so I finished it in Starbucks the following morning before going into work.)

Iain Banks always likes to take a shot at the establishment. The scene at the golf course presents him with this opportunity and his description of the gathering reminded me of all the recent coverage in the UK press about the "Chipping Norton Set" and the environment of collusion between politicians, agents of law and order, and those with a predilection for pursuits beyond those considered strictly legal, but all for the "better good", of course. This scene could also be taken as a "hats off" salute to the film, "Hot Fuzz", in which Bill Bailey's two characters (Sergeants Turner) are seen to be reading Iain Banks and Iain M. Banks novels, and in which a similar approach to peace keeping can be observed.

It is the first book I've read in a long time in which the ending was not a foregone conclusion. Right up until the end it could have gone any number of ways and Iain Banks did a great job of laying any number of false trails that the reader could follow. As I approached the end of the book I had at least four possible endings in mind and I was kept guessing to the last few pages.

Many reviewers have considered this book to be a disappointment for a Banks novel. I do not agree with them. While "Stonemouth" is not "The Bridge", "Walking on Glass", "The Crow Road", "Espedair Street", "Complicity", or "The Was Factory", it is still a good read with a lot to offer and a novel that would have been acclaimed had it been written by someone else.

Thank you, Iain, for another enjoyable story.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another fine novel from Iain Banks Jan. 23 2013
By R.W.A. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I became acquainted with Iain Banks through his science fiction stories of The Culture. Those novels are universe-spanning space operas, taking place far in the future. Well worth checking out.
Then I read his novels The Crow Road and The Steep Approach to Garbadale, both of which take place in contemporary Scotland. I especially like The Crow Road, which has much in common with Stonemouth. Both center on the consequences of going home again. In Stonemouth, Stewart Gilmour returns to his home town (the name of which is the book's title) to pay his respects at the funeral of an old acquaintance. That old acquaintance also happened to be the patriarch of a local crime family, and the grandfather of the girl Stewart was going to marry. Stewart returns with much apprehension because there is an old score to settle with his ex-fiancee's family, one caused by the events that led to his fleeing Stonemouth. The novel tells the story of Stewart's experience of returning to a place of lost love, bitter humiliation and genuine fear.
As is the case with The Crow Road, the strength of Stonemouth is the voice of Stewart, who narrates the novel. I found myself not only rooting for a happy ending for Stewart, but wishing I could meet up with him and have a pint or two. Warm, funny, and often suspenseful, Stonemouth is a very good novel. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read Aug. 31 2013
By Pat Sibley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
When I started this book on Kindle, I wasn't sure if I'd read it before, but that was only because I'd read the opening several times before deciding to purchase the book, and just couldn't remember. I did enjoy the book. I am a fan of Iain Banks' regular fiction, more so than his science fiction. This is solid Banks fiction with a troubled relationship between the lead character and in his case, most of his hometown. I can recommend it.
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