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The Devil's Footprints Paperback – 6 Mar 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Books Edition edition (6 Mar. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099479540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099479543
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 423,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Burnside has published seven works of fiction and eleven collections of poetry, including his Selected Poems, published by Cape in 2006. His memoir, A Lie About My Father, was published in the same year to enormous critical acclaim, and was chosen as the Scottish Arts Council Non-Fiction Book of the Year and the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year.

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Review

"Burnside does darkness in prose the way Leonardo did enigmatic smiles.. The Devil's Footsteps is convincing, occasionally disturbing and ultimately comforting" (Herald)

"A spare, bewitching, beautifully written book... Burnside nimbly delineates the border where the actual and illusory meet: on both sides he finds dark, flinty human truths" (The Times)

"The Devil's Footprints is a classic tale with an old-fashioned, gripping plot. But it is also helplessly good at the things that Burnside loves best: geography, the neighbours, the way people's lives go, and the way people's other, secret lives turn out" (Guardian)

"Both this novel and Gift Songs are superb achievements. To be both a poet and a novelist is highly unusual. To write so outstandingly well in both genres is a rarity indeed" (Financial Times)

"His is a devouring eloquence, unfazed by generic difference and widely admired... what happens on almost every page is absorbing... It can be said of John Burnside's novel what was said by this journal at their outset: that they are the work of an "extraordinarily good writer"" (Times Literary Supplement)

Book Description

A breathtaking novel by the author of A Lie About My Father.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Devil's Footprints is a meticulously written character study of alienation. Prefaced by a tale of cloven hoofprints in the Coldhaven snow, we follow the self-narrated story of Michael Gardiner, a middle aged Coldhaven resident in more recent times.

Michael tells his story very precisely. There is self-depracating humour; wisdom; and absolutely no feeling for other people. He interacts with others, often quite normally, but seems to have avoided close friendships with his peers, assisted in no small measure by his parents' failure to be accepted into the small Scottish fishing community into which they had moved. There are tales of bullying, alienation, loneliness.

John Burnside plays loose and fast with timelines, carefully withholding information until it can be dropped into the story just late enough for the reader to have to reappraise the previous sections. It's not a particularly unreliable narrator - if anything, Michael is abnormally reliable - it's just the sequencing is done with particularly devastating effect. The story itself is of a very ordinary, normal person who has occasionally done things that are not normal. But always, the explanations are clear and the rational is logical. There's a heavy dose of self pity, but the feeling is that Michael is basically a pretty decent guy. This is impressive, since Michael does one or two things that are pretty far from decent. Hence there is a delightful conflict of emotions as the story unfolds.

The language is very plain and very clear, but at the same time exquisitely beautiful. John Burnside evokes the landscape, the town and the people so very clearly. It's so understated, but quite perfect. Poetic without being flowery.

It would be difficult to say more without giving away the book's secrets. That would be a shame; it's not a long read and it deserves to be uncovered layer by layer.
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John Burnside, The Devil's Footprints

Lately I've been reading quite a few books, fiction and non-fiction, about father-son relationships, and John Burnside's novel is one of the most fascinating. No doubt a good deal of the book is autobiographical, for the dust jacket tells us that the same author's memoir A Lie About My Father `appeared in 2006 to enormous critical acclaim.'

Be that as it may, the father in The Devil's Footprints is not at the centre of the story, which is a first person narrative of a recluse whose family attempt to settle in Coldhaven, where an atmosphere of hostility threatens their family life. `I don't want to say there was some kind of concerted action, some plot,' says Michael Gardiner, the narrator, `because they hated one another just as much as they hated people like my parents.' The malice that seems to dog Michael's life is all the more mysterious because it is non-specific, felt rather than explained by any act, though there are plenty of violent acts, including at least two murders.

But this is no detective thriller with the reader being asked to identify motive or track down cause and effect. Much of the hostility is gratuitous and quite possibly mainly in Michael's own psyche. While the father accepts that the locals are `all right ...they're different from us, I'll give you that. They have different - ideas,' John, a friend with an interest in the local landscape, wants to know more. `My father took a moment to think about it, then launched into one of his wordy, mock-serious analyses.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cromarty Forth Tyne on 28 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Once again the author delivers a quiet but powerful story. Set in the northeast of Scotland, the title of this book actually has little to do with the story and although I was expecting a fictional account of witchcraft, the novel nonetheless is a haunting story of a tragic set of events in the narrator's life. John Burnside has a particular talent for storytelling so what really draws you in is the way the story is told as much as the story itself.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sam Holman on 8 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I started reading this book because my dad had taken it out of the library to read himself, and just happened to show me a particular page that he thought I might find interesting. After having read the part he was showing me, I spent the rest of the day reading it. After having read it I bought it. The book is poetic in the deepest sense of the word, and seems to be narrated on the most part from a view lying below the normal reality of life. The plot is interesting-though slightly wierd in places-and left me with a feeling somewhere between sadness and longing.
It also woke up a feeling in me that inspired me to write. A good book to read if you've forgotten who you are, and are lost in a life you're not sure why you're living.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K K Scott on 14 Jun. 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of Burnside's most accessible books. Marked by excellent character development this novel takes place in the present although the narrative is inspired by past events. Wild, picturesque landscapes combined with family secrets and an outcast hero should make this a modern Scottish gothic but its no knee trembler. It fits more into the less scarey, more descent into mental darkness type of fiction.

It is well-written and has some interesting insights into the modern day psyche. The only fault I found was that I was looking for more action - this is a very internal book.
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