Stonemouth, Hardback
4 out of 5 (3 ratings)


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.




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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Stonemouth by Iain Banks (2012 Little, Brown, 356pp)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.

Review by

A return to form from Iain Banks with what is probably his finest novel since "The Crow Road".Indeed, this book ploughs a similar furrow to "The Crow Road", featuring the return to his small town roots of a Scots exile who has now found refuge and a career down in London. Here the principal protagonist is Stewart Gilmour who is returning. As the novel opens Gilmour is waiting to meet the main enforcer for one of two gangs that, between them, effectively run the small town of Stonemouth (a fictional town which we infer is not far up the coast from Aberdeen), to check that he will have safe passage for the weekend.As the novel progresses we gradually find out more - Gilmour, now in his mid twenties, has not been back for five years, and had only just managed to escape with his life.More and more details emerge and it becomes clear that the network of relationships and affiliations within the town are complicated, and often counter-intuitive.The plot goes through several sinuous turns, but never loses the reader's avid attention, and while Gilmour is far from perfect, and clearly not blameless, he is an engaging character who readily wins the reader's sympathy. I found that I couldn't put this book down, and now feel slightly bereft that I have finished it!

Review by

Some insights on infidelity. Interesting. Pleasant narrative but faded in parts.

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