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Well-constructed comedy of poorly-constructed fences!
on 3 May 2005
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.