62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
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
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
: a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character
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
51 of 58 people found the following review helpful
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Iain Banks was born in Scotland in 1954 and published his first book - "The Wasp Factory" - in 1984. In the years since, he's won critical acclaim, topped best-seller lists and has even branched out into Science-Fiction. Banks died in June 2013, two months after announcing he had inoperable cancer.
Stewart Gilmour is back in his hometown of Stonemouth for the first time in five years. As the book opens, he's standing on the edge of a bridge, high above the First of Stoun - where many of Stonemouth's suicidal have jumped to their death. Stewart isn't planning to jump himself, at least not just yet - though with what he faces over the next few days, it might just be the easiest option.
Stewart had been run out of town by the Murston clan, one of Stonemouth's two criminal families. He's now back in town for a funeral and wants to be sure it's safe for him to be there. Therefore, he's arranged a meeting with Powell Imrie - the Murston family's most significant hired muscle. (Even without his links to the Murstons, Powell would terrify you. However, he seems an honourable sort : he'll not deceive you and, so long as you play by the rules, he won't hurt you either). The meeting takes place on the bridge and Powell assures him that he should survive the funeral. However, he doesn't recommend a lengthy stay - but does suggest beginning with a courtesy visit to Don, the aptly-named head of the dreaded family.
"Stonemouth" is told in the usual Banks fashion: as the `current' story moves forward, we gradually learn about Stewart's past - building up to crucial night that saw him being run out of town. The story is told by Stewart himself, and Banks has tried to write the book in the way a twenty-something (presumably) speaks. Some of the phrases had me grinding my teeth a bit; "my own crib" and "chillaxed" especially irritated. (I'd have thought David Cameron would have killed off the use of chillaxed, but there you go...maybe I'm just getting old). However, in spite of these aberrations, there are a couple of funny stories, the odd tragedy and some lovely writing too - there's a very convincing walk along the beach with a dog called Tumsh towards the end of the book, for example. It occurred to me, once or twice, that maybe Banks was trying to write a new Crow Road for a younger generation...while Stonemouth isn't *quite* that good, it's still an easily-read and enjoyable book overall.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2013
This is slightly blokey in parts – men's war toys stuff, and male gorilla stuff – but I'm giving it five stars as the quality of writing merits it, and at the end of the day the book is actually a love story and as such does have its 'aaaah!' moment. Banks' vivid imagination is always evident, not just in his sci-fi books, and this one carries you along with its action and its characters – many of whom you feel you know. Banks had (really sad to have to use the past tense here) the ability to make his books almost more realistic than real life, chiming with the experiences of so many people. This was evident by the outpourings on the news of his illness, and then his death. His writing engages his readers, many of whom felt they had become personal friends of the author. He took us places, he showed us things. Difficult to believe that has come to an end. Stonemouth is perhaps not his best book, but it is still an extremely well written book and very good read.
on 9 October 2013
This is the first of Iain's non-'M' novels that I've read, and I suspect that is why I had more time for it than many reviewers on Amazon seem to have had. A lot of them think he is just repeating himself here, and that the story is similar to previous works. I can't judge that, obviously, which is probably the reason why I quite liked it.
Only 'quite', though. It's a very simple, predictable story, populated by somewhat stereotypical characters. Five years ago, Stewart was set to marry Ellie, daughter of one of the two drug 'lords' who effectively run the town of Stonemouth. But something happened that made him an enemy of her family and sent him on the run to escape them. Since then he's lived and worked in London, but now, upon the death of Ellie's grandfather - with whom Stewart was great friends - he is returning to Stonemouth to attend the funeral, and the inevitable meeting with the family.
What exactly happened five years ago is gradually revealed over the course of the book (ultimately, it's not much of a surprise). It is narrated in the present tense and delves back into the murky past, telling of Stewart's childhood in Stonemouth, his first meeting with Ellie, etc etc. So it's nothing particularly spectacular, but it's decent, and Banks's writing skill is engaging and amusing, and occasionally builds up a bit of tension.
The swearing in the novel is off the scale. Be prepared for the 'f' and 'c' words to appear regularly. This didn't bother me but I can imagine it being a problem for some.
on 5 August 2013
Iain Banks Stonemouth is an excellent confection of gangsters, violence, love and romance. I enjoyed it.
Banks has set the novel in a fictional, provincial Scottish town run by two rival gangs in collaboration with an acquiescent police force. It's a first person narrative, and Banks uses this method to drip feed the reader with an intriguing account of the history of the protagonist, Stewart Gilmour, and the reasons why he is no longer welcome in his home town.
The novel begins, aptly enough for its genre, in the dark, on the misty bridge that guards the approach to the town of Stonemouth. Here Gilmour is met by Powell Imrie, gangster and thug, who lays down the law about Gilmour's three day visit to the town from which he has been exiled. As the long weekend progresses and we meet more of Gilmour's friends and acquaintances we learn about the personal and business relationships that led to his rapid exit several years ago. We meet a range of interesting characters, and encounter a fair amount of drunken revelry and violence.
In the end Gilmour turns out to be somewhat of an idealised hero figure - good looking, intelligent and fortunate in equal measure. By this point, the novel is more of a romance than a thriller, though the action and excitement continues.
Banks is a prolific writer: of his other works I have only read The Wasp Factory. This is something of a classic now, though I found it bleak and harsh.
I would certainly recommend Stonemouth. It's never dull, and an easy read.
on 6 May 2013
I read this book just after hearing of Iain Banks' illness. I've read just about all his books, both sci-fi and straight fiction. Some I've loved (The Bridge, most of the Culture ones), others I've found stagey and contrived (The Business, Steep Approach). This is one of the best.
The book covers three or four days in the life of the narrator, Stewart Gilmour. He has returned from a burgeoning career in London to his hometown, Stonemouth, a coastal town north of Aberdeen. The town hasn't changed - a rough and ready place where the only thriving activity is the drugs trade, which has been carved up amicably between two criminal families. One of these, the Murstons, are there to greet Gilmour on his return.
It's clear that Gilmour has a whole lot of history in Stonemouth, and specifically with the intermittently psychopathic Murston clan. He was expelled from the town several years previously, and has been allowed to return for the funeral of the Murstons' patriarch, after which he must leave or face the consequences.
We learn, as we go through the book, of the road that led to his expulsion. We follow the adolescence of Gilmour and his friends, and of a love affair and a catastrophic fall from grace.
What makes this book such a riveting read is the fast, complex, deft narrative - full of twists and turns, flashbacks and revelations. It's not faultless - Banks does tend to be over-specific about hardware, for instance. A car can never just be a car, it has to have the make and model firmly established; the phone has to have a brand; a scene on a road bridge is precisely located at "near one of the expansion joints on the roadway". This can appear a little nerdy; and the dialogue sometimes clunks a little. But these are minor quibbles; it's an exciting and romantic book that flies by.
Banks has promised us at least one more book. I hope it will be as good as this one; he deserves an epitaph of this quality.
I discovered the work of Iain Banks quite late in the day, the first of his books I read being "The Steep Approach to Garbadale". Since then I've read all of his fiction (not the SF though - I'm not a fan of that genre) and thoroughly enjoyed most of it.
Set in the fictional northern Scottish town of Stonemouth, the book begins with Stewart - the narrator - standing on a bridge, looking over the side, before he is taken in by a regular patrol whose job is to stop suicides. Once back in safety he makes his way into the town and it becomes clear that he has done something in the past that led to his leaving the town rather quickly, and he begins to seek forgiveness. The town has two dominant families so there are rivalries, and Stewart is caught up between the two, having to approach the heads of each in order to explain and seek approval for his appearance, and slowly but surely the reasons for Stewart's exile are revealed.
As entertaining as the book was (I couldn't put it down and read it in a day on holiday) I did have an almost constant feeling of deja vu while reading it as there were so many elements in the story that had appeared in several of Banks's other novels. Thoroughly enjoyable, but a little Banks-by-numbers in some respects, almost a sibling to both "Garbadale" and "The Crow Road" in particular, yet not quite as good as either.