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The Restraint of Beasts [Paperback]

Magnus Mills
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Mar 2004

Shortlisted for both the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award: a modern comic classic from ‘A British writer to be treasured’ (Independent on Sunday)

The news couldn't be worse for Tam, Richie and their new supervisor: Mr McCrindle's fence has gone slack.

The three of them are duly dispatched to the McCrindle farm, where they finish off the work, then go to England where, after rain-sodden days bashing in fence posts, they wolf down baked beans in their shared caravan and spend their evenings and cash in the local pub. But then they encounter the Hall Brothers – butchers, rival fencers and local heroes…

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; (Reissue) edition (15 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006551149
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006551140
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.2 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 666,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Building high-tension fencing with a couple of rural Scots louts--what could be a more likely premise for a black comedy? An eerie noir fable told in a grim, deadpan voice, The Restraint of Beasts tells the story of an English fence-builder promoted to foreman over two under-motivated labourers. They've just been sent out to fix a badly done fence when events go horribly awry--and not for the last time either. For the rest of the novel, as his charges drink, loaf and pound the occasional fence-post, events go badly amiss 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 if you hire these workers to assemble your high-tension fence, you'd best watch your back. Or your front, for that matter. And 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. Here they soon find themselves at loggerheads with the sinister Hall brothers, whose business enterprises seem to combine fencing, butchering, sausage-making and the mysterious "school dinners". "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 things 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 novel 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 in vain to read when they run out of money for pubs. No doubt about it, this is a strange book that only grows stranger as it progresses; with any luck it augurs well for more brilliant, odd work from debut novelist Mills. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'A demented, deadpan comic wonder' Thomas Pynchon

'A heaving cauldron of black humour… I can guarantee that if you buy this book you'll never look at a stretch of high-tensile agricultural fencing in quite the same way ever again' Time Out

'Extremely unusual, finely crafted and funny' Observer

'Clever and funny and rewardingly strange … in a manner which may be called Kafkaesque' Independent on Sunday

'Unpretentious, comic and intelligent' Daily Telegraph

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First Sentence
'I'm putting you in charge of Tam and Richie,' said Donald. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Magnus Mills' has crafted a particularly well-written black comedy around the unlikely theme of fence construction. In 'The Restraint of Beasts', the English narrator receives the dubious honour of being appointed supervisor of two Scottish fence-builders: the bone idle Richie and his even lazier offsider Tam. Both Richie and Tam are live for the day - or at least a few pints at night - and never seem to have two pennies to rub together. The novel faithfully captures the sheer drudgery of repetitive and mundane physical labour, as well as the humour that can occur in such workplaces. The work of this team as they construct supposedly high-tensile fences comes under a great deal of scrutiny from management, clients and rivals - with darkly funny consequences. Suffice it to say that there are many laughs in this quirky novel that has resonances of classic English comedies such as 'Withnail and I' and 'The League of Gentlemen'.
Magnus Mills' debut novel would have been a possible 5-star contender for most of the journey. However, the novel becomes significantly blacker and less humourous in the final stages with no apparently good reason, ending most abruptly in an annoying and unsatisfying manner. Nevertheless, 'The Restraint of Beasts' is a highly entertaining, off-beat black comedy that accurately portrays the lifestyle of workers fenced in by economic forces.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It was going so well until the end 15 Jan 1999
By A Customer
I can't give this book the 5 stars others have awarded, even though I would agree with most of the other comments; the book is a good read, an excellent black comedy.
The only problem is the way it is finished off - the story has been carefully crafted and the possibility of some more delicious moments meticulously set up. And then .... nothing! As I was reading it I was thinking, "this is good, how is it going to be resolved?" It wasn't, much to my annoyance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortless genius 8 Aug 2008
How is it possible to write such a beautiful, engaging and un-put-downable book without any discernible plot? Mills does, and it is a work of genius; one that deserves to become a classic.

Some guys build a fence. That's about it. But what characters! Mills has an ability to write character and scene in a way that makes you love even the most unlovable of them. No author since Steinbeck has managed it so convincingly. His prose is clean, clear and full of life, never seeking to impress, but doing so time after time.

This book is not for everyone - but everyone should give it a go. It's fresh, unusual, and never to be forgotten!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Restraint of Beasts 7 Oct 2007
The Restraint of Beasts is a bizarre and very black comedy about a gang of three high-tensile fencing contractors (hence the title) - Tam and Richie, two long-haired, lunatic Scots and their reluctant English foreman who's name we never learn.
The gang are despatched to England by their psychotic, fence obsessed boss Donald, where they spend their dismal rain-soaked days trudging through muddy fields, digging holes and knocking in fence posts. Equally dismal evenings are spent in the dingy squalor of their flimsy caravan and drinking their wages in the local pubs.
The Restraint of Beasts has many unexpected surprises and ludicrous twists and turns and becomes increasingly surreal, but never slides into farce or slapstick. Everyone of Mills' characters are endearing, interesting and larger than life. Tam and Richie are just brilliant - totally incompetent and disgusting, but childlike and lovable and you can't help but feel sorry for them having to make do with fertilizer bags for waterproofs and polishing their cowboy boots with their least dirtiest underpants.
Magnus Mills is able to say an awful lot with just a few words which makes his comic timing even more effective. One scene, several pages long is repeated word for word further on, this seemed odd although it worked well.
If I have any criticism it would be with the ending, which, like many aspects of the book was not what I expected.
Restraint of Beasts is funny, clever and mysterious and Magnus Mills deserves to be proud of his first novel and the unforgettable characters he has created.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How bizarre 13 Sep 2003
By A Customer
What a great book! Everything is written with superb understatement to the point where you eventually come to think that every strange occurence in this book is completely normal.

There isn't much else you can say about it. All I would say is, don't expect an in-depth character study or a deeply moving novel. Relax before you read it, then laugh your head off when you do read it - I did.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious! 16 Oct 2004
I first read this book on my mother's recomendation, however the recomendation comming from a parent meant that it couldn't be good. We never agree about books. But she was so entusiastic about this book that we entered a pact, she would read Terry Pratchet's Small Gods and I would read Magnus Mills' Restraint Of Beasts.
As she read Small Gods there was a noticable amount of giggling and sniggering. However after reading it she of course denied it, she would never concede to liking a fantasy book!
I on the other hand loved the story telling of Magnus Mills, reading the book felt like listening to a good story around a camp fire, albeit a bit of a sureal story. I'm not going to spoil the book but I can say that after reading it you wll never look at the countryside in the same light again.
This book would certainly suit those of you who like TV comedies like Monty Python, League Of Gentlemen and Black Books. I now own the majority of Magnus' books.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of the funniest books around.. read it and you will never look at fencing in the same way!
Published 1 month ago by Rebecca Downey
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good quality item for fair price
Published 2 months ago by Sue
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome
What a truly funny and realistic book. It had me laughing out loud on the train, absolutely bloody loved it.
Published 4 months ago by Jambles
5.0 out of 5 stars Sooo clever
His debut novel and still one of my favourite books, ever.
The slow narrative draws you and builds to the crux of the book, which I did not see coming. Great stuff.
Published 6 months ago by A Mum on the Run
3.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly entertaining
Read this as part of a book club - so not something I would have necessarily picked myself. It was enjoyable - in a very weird way..!
Published 7 months ago by Selena
5.0 out of 5 stars This Author deserves a wider readership
Brilliantly funny in a deadpan style. You will also probably enjoy Magnus 'Mills's 'All Quiet On The Orient Express', which I also reckon rates ***** '!
Published 8 months ago by Edward Crook
3.0 out of 5 stars odd recommendation
This author was highly recommended to me by several members of my writing group. It was okay but not as good as I had been led to believe. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mrs. Jeanice E. Singh
5.0 out of 5 stars A present
This is a present so I cannot give a subjective rating. It looks good and it was on someone's wish list
Published 10 months ago by DoubleK
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, brilliant, inventive, imaginative writing
Already read a couple of books by Magnus Mills and love his slightly different take on the situation, his wonderful use of language and the slightly abstract scenarios he conjures... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. K. Dowding
4.0 out of 5 stars The first of many
I read the Restraint of Beasts a while ago, it was the first of many books I have now read by Magnus Mills, one of the UK's best and most innovative writers. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Manda Moo
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