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on 2 May 2012
Addictive, nostalgic, funny, tense and satisfying. I'm shocked to see so many unflattering reviews of Stonemouth above - (in fact I almost took note of the 'same old formula' lines myself) - but I have to disagree that this book is boring, flat, predictable... following a tried and tested formula.

Sure, Banks displays some of his more trademark themes throughout, but he does it so well. And Stonemouth is such a tight, well paced novel... the plot moves so smoothly and effortlessly, its a wonder he can evoke such knowing and telling segements of the past we are all so familier with - love, betrayal, violence, returning home....

The Steep Aproach to Garbadale may seem very much a companion piece to Stonemouth (its no Crow Road - he may never surpass that), but Garbadale I found a little clunky in places, a tad too long.

Stonemouth cuts to the chase. Yes there a family secrets and a sense of dread in Stewart returning home. Yes there are romantic moments and themes on lost love.... but if you've been a fan of his and find his storytelling so real and close to home, then this will not disappoint.

The music/ drugs/ childhood anicdotes and smart-alec quips are all here, but you'd be hard pressed to find another writer who can do it in the way Banks can.

Perhaps some were hoping for something a little different, sure. But do not be put off by a 1/2 star review stating Banks is perhaps lazily revisiting old ground here.... Its handled beautifully - a very accomplished book, well paced, tone pitch perfect and one of the more satisfying endings I've seen in Banks for a while now.

Better than Steep Approach, but no Crow Road - 4 stars seems about right
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 April 2012
This novel is essentially a love story, and a very modern one, where the main characters, who are in their mid twenties, experiment with almost everything - often with serious consequences. The story is centred around the return of Stewart Gilmour from London, where he has found some success, to his home town near Aberdeen, and his reunion with the people he grew up with, including his former girlfriend, some close friends and a number of people who he has enraged in the past by his actions.

The town of Stonemouth has problems; an unusually high fatality rate involving the nearby bridge, a strong drug culture, and the presence of two dominant families, who mix legal and illegal activity in fairly equal measure. The story is unfolded against this backdrop. Iain Banks covers strong themes here; loyalty, friendship, enduring love, fear and courage, and beautifully evokes aspects of life in Scotland, as well as what it is to be young, smart, and prone to making some very bad decisions.

This is a beautifully written and highly enjoyable work of fiction. I found myself caring what happened to the main characters and I was sorry when it was finished.

Highly recommended
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on 28 June 2013
Stonemouth was my first read of Banks having only seen the TV drama of Crow Road several years ago and has now encouraged me to read more of his fiction. Am not a fan of sci-fi so unable to comment on his other genre. From the start of the book, I got into the sharp scottish accent with all the characters and could picture every description whether it was scenery, town, or their characters. A tale combining first loves, childhood friendships, jealousy, rivalry, drug culture, describing how life really is within a small depressed town. For me, this book had an engaging storyline that I got into and couldn't put down. Romance, anger, depression, humour & wit all in one hit. Definitely worth reading.
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on 7 August 2012
'Whit're ye reading?'
'"Stonemouth" by yon Iain Banks.'
'Whit like is it?'
'Awright.'
'Is it wan o'thae wi' the spaceships an'that?'
'Naw.'
'Huz it got folks explodin' an' that?'
'Naw.'
'Whit like is it, then?'
'Some shagger shags aw the gurls and gits hissel into a spot o'bother.'
'Braw! Will ye read it agin?'
'Naw.'
'Awright.'
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Bildungsroman
: a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character
MerriamWebster

This is my first Iain Banks book, why, I have no idea. I am of Scottish heritage, my maiden name, MacLeod, and I love all things Scottish. Reading the initial PR about thus book caught my attention, and I was not disappointed. This is the real Scotland, not the tourist's brand. Stewart Gilmour returns to his hometown, meets a man on the bridge that enters town, and is also the jumping off place for some poor souls. He needs the OK from the town's head mobster to return for a funeral. It seems he was run off from town a while ago for some deed we are not privy to. As the story moves alng, we do find the reason, but it is a long long time coming.

The Murstons are the family with the money and the misdeeds. The author treats us to Stewart Gilmour's life as he grows up in Stonemouth to set the stage for the finale. We meet the friends, the foes, relatives, the townspeople, and how they all work together to formulate the culture of this town. Gilmour's returns to town as an educated professional man, and he is envied and defiled, depending which side you are on.

The writing is swift and superb. The characters jump out at you. This is a book that gives as good as we get. I don't want to spoil one page for anyone. You will want to continue to read until you can't keep your eyes open. What we learn fairly early on is that you can't go home again easily. All those unanswered questions, may be best not answered. What we know as a young person, may not be at all what we know for sure as an adult.

Recommended. prisrob 12-04-13
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on 5 July 2016
I re-read this after watching the BBC dramatisation of the book - and not remembering the plot!

That's because they changed it around a little to simplify the book and make it more dramatic. The book itself is all first-person narrative and (mostly) present tense, which gives it great immediacy and almost unbearable tension,but means that we only know what Stewart knows - which isn't everything.

The story is all small-town tensions and claustrophobic intensity of a group of childhood friends and lovers, and the resumed bullying of the hero on his return from the big city to put right a major mistake in his life. A great read and recommended for Iain Banks fans.
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on 19 December 2015
This is my second Banks novel (the first was the not-very-brilliant Quarry).

The opening chapter is fantastic. What an atmosphere on the bridge, with the constant undercurrent of suicides. A shame the author never properly explored this. I liked the book and the style is easy to read, but it is a couple of hundred pages too long. There just isn't enough happening. I wish he had kept the feeling of menace generated at the beginning, with more on the bridge and the suicides. I thought the bridge was going to become a character in its own right and, sadly, that didn't happen.
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It is now 28 years since The Wasp Factory was published. It didn't take long to become a cult novel and everybody assumed that the author, Iain Banks, was destined for big things. He followed it up with several good, highly original books but of late the standard has tailed off, his last few being pale shadows of his best work. He seems to have become the Paul Gascoigne of British literature; no-one doubts his talent but he hasn't really lived up to his potential. So if anybody needed to bring out a decent book to restore his fading reputation it was Iain Banks. With the publication of Stonemouth he as partly succeeded in doing this, because although it is not in the same class as The Wasp Factory, Crow Road or Whit this must be his best book for some time.

Stonemouth tells the story of the Stewart Gilmores return to the Scottish town of the same name to attend a funeral after being forced to move away by local gangsters following an indiscretion shortly before he was due to be married to a member of their family. The events of his short visit result in a likeable story complete with a cast of believable characters and a satisfying ending. Whilst it lacks the complexity of some of Banks' earlier novels this is still a well thought out tale which is told well.

There was one aspect of this book that annoyed me a little though, and that was that at times it read a little like an elongated advertisement for Apple products. At various points in the story the lead character praises Apple phones and Apple computers, even having a dig at Windows in the process. It was so blatant that I felt compelled to check the cover to see if I could find the words "sponsored by Apple".
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on 16 February 2014
I was pleased to see Mr Banks return to form for what was sadly his last novel.

The cover adequately describes the content: tender, funny and exciting. Tender is probably the key thing here, with some Banks trademark nostalgia and sweet romances. He's managed to tap into one of those universal emotions that made me put the book down and look out the window a few times.

There are some tense scenes that play very well, although I don't feel that these gel 100% with the key themes of returning home and lost love, regret, missed opportunity. Frankly if he'd written the novel without, it would granted have been a slower pace but perhaps a fully accomplished novel, a real swan song. Likewise, there are a few superfluous characters and scenes that plump this out, but which a really stellar editor would have axed.

In any case, this is by far better than some of the author's blander works, particularly his last few mainstream novels. 'Stonemouth' isn't quite 'The Wasp Factory' or 'The Crow Road' but it's close, but has a degree of subtlty that means he's achieved a similar level without the use of shock tactics - an arguably much tougher choice.

Definitely recommended for Banks fans and a worthy goodbye.

7.5/10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered WIngs'
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on 5 June 2012
People seem to be very uptight about what "type" of Iain Banks book they like and they all have a favourite in the genre and want the next book to surpass it. That's all well and good but you just need to read the book and consider it for its own merits. Basically this is a very well written book which is interesting and amusing enough to keep the reader engaged. It isn't ground breaking, fair enough, but it is a good book and way better than almost all novels of its type out there at the moment. Read it and make your own mind up.
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