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4.4 out of 5 stars19
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 21 April 2013
In which the hapless Gordon Claypole is catapulted to the Highlands of Scotland to win a local community over to a wind farm. He was brought here by Peregrine MacGilp, a frighteningly amicable local laird, but he has no idea why. He knows nothing and cares less about green energy and Scotland. Only one thing keeps him here, a necessarily vague desire to win the favour of Peregrine's niece, the elusive Coky (I won't spoil the revelation of her full name) who first spurned Claypole (we see in an achingly well observed prologue) on a childhood holiday here 25 years ago. An unflagging cavalcade of Kafkaesque episodes follow, in which (inter much alia) Claypole finds himself dining with a gardner who talks like Shakespeare, evaporating at a shroom-fuelled Lochside rave, rowing for dear life across a black choppy sea and reluctantly delivering a foal by starlight. It all ends happily, of course, although not exactly as we might have thought ....

Although his first book, Macintyre is a born novelist, with an intuitive sense of pace, focus and timing. His vigorous, angular style is all his own, although some of his wilder conceits are reminiscent of Martin Amis - an altogether good thing, of course, and the master himself might sensibly look with envy at a lot of them (my own favourite was a hangover in which the teeth "sing" and the hair "aches"). And like all great comic novels, it also knows how to be tender and when to be serious. Once you've stitched your sides back together, you realise it's a deeply felt celebration of wild Scotland, responsible capitalism and edible gardens.

The photo shows us the author standing in a country lane, next to a wooden cart, in a Withnailian pose of tentative pugnacity. No need. I only hope there will now be an endless spool of novels as charming, hilarious and passionate as this one.
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on 25 April 2013
A very funny, somewhat daft book which made me laugh out loud throughout - I especially enjoyed the description of the totally incompetent, tweed-clad organist with her uncontrollable instrument and the idea of a landscape looking as if the BBC were staging their 'biggest and baddest Jane Austen yet'! A perfect read when you are in need of a good chuckle.
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on 10 June 2013
Magnus Macintyre knows what he's doing. In a deft first novel, the picaresque Claypole has echoes of Amis' John Self with a hint of Magnus Mill's gift for darkness. Whirligig is a cracking novel of its time dealing as it does with climate and energy and nimbyism as its milieu, and within the RomCom (I'm sure Macintyre will hate the tag) there is a more serious political discussion. In this way, the novel falls beautifully into a category that would be hard to gender. These are not beautiful people in the way that so much contemporary fiction fetishizes love, and so they are far more credible - a kind of collection of Everyman with all the quest novel traditions subverted (Coky could have been imagined by Angela Carter). Mactintyre is never polemical, and the novel's real success lies in the ambiguities left for the reader to decide. It's also a damn good read, and as others here have said, once you start you just keep reading. There is much criticism about 'page turners' as literature, but don't be fooled; Whirligig is a clever book with much to say. It would be easy to imagine as a good BBC serial drama or a decent British film that perhaps gives a nod to Withnail & I and Local Hero in tone. For all its familiarity, Whirligig is entirely original, and in the best tradition of good writing what we think of as recognition quickly deceives and shows us a complete universe with all its smells and textures. I missed the characters when the book came to a close, and would have liked more time with them. Perhaps there is room for fine detail in big narratives in this high speed world. I think Macintyre could pull it off.
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on 3 September 2013
I purchased Whirligig on a whim in the Kindle sale, and ended up falling completely in love. The writing is sharp, funny and engaging, the story is perfectly paced and engrossing, the reluctant hero of the story is refreshingly unconventional and relatably flawed, and the supporting characters are rounded and complex. The Scottish highlands provide a beautiful backdrop for this story about striking a balance between nature and progress, and the theme of redemption through nature stole my heart. Whirligig was a pleasure to read, and I look forward to reading more from this promising new author. I'd give it four-and-a-half stars if I could!
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on 17 November 2013
Curiosity made me choose this book as a holiday read, and as I didn't get round to it on holiday,have only just read it. An interesting array of characters, not all likeable, but this doesn't detract from a really enjoyable and satisfying read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and wholeheartedly recommend it.
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on 11 June 2013
You know you're in very good hands right from the start here, which means you can just relax and enjoy the fun. The author really seems to know the worlds he writes about, though whether anybody knows about crusty gentlemen's clubs in St James's, the scrubby hinterlands of Scotland, wind farming, incompetent grouse shooting and class A hangovers is doubtful (or is it?).

The back cover says Wodehouse meets Wicker Man, but there's a good splash of Withnail in here, too. I personally find reading about people who are making a total cock-up of their lives very reassuring, and if it's funny and carries a hint of redemption, all the better. The anti-hero, Claypole, challenged in every conceivable way from baldness to bankruptcy, is a fine literary pal for those of us who find the acquaintance of high achievers daunting. Even his trademark, all-purpose verbal tic - 'Brr' - becomes strangely endearing by the end.

There are great set-pieces here - how to make sure you've killed a deer in an electric car, how not to bed down for the night in the wild - and the whole thing skips along. I gobbled it up in a couple of days and wanted more. Very funny and strangely comforting.
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on 7 May 2013
Whirligig is one of the funniest books I've read in years and I highly recommend it. The author may not thank me for saying this but I liken the pace and tone of the dramatic comedy of Whirligig to the hugely successful Wilt series by Tom Sharpe. My guess is that fans of Wilt will love Whirligig for its similarly hapless central character (Claypole) and the comic pathos that accompanies him. At times the comedy is firmly in the slapstick genre - if it's there Claypole will step in it - but the slapstick is masterfully written and the central character does not over dominate; there is plenty of intelligent humour as well. A class act for an accomplished writer so all the more remarkable for a first novel.

The plot is reminiscent of Bill Forsyth's Local Hero film of 1983; both explore some ever-so-subtle pro-environmental messages and both use the wilds of Scotland and some wonderfully eccentric Scottish characters to great comic effect. I rarely 'lol' when reading but Whirligig had me chuckling throughout. I'd love to see Mr Forsyth put this book onto the big screen casting James Corden in the role of Claypole. I can't wait for Magnus Macintyre's second novel.
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on 19 January 2014
Lovely lovely book peppered with issues that Scotland has been working with for a long time. It reminded me at times of an old fashioned film such as Whisky Galore and was as comforting in to read in the heart of winter as a hot toddy and freshly baked shortbread.
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on 20 April 2013
I bought Whirligig on a Thursday, thinking it would be just the thing to read on holiday the following week. I dipped into in on Friday, when I had a few idle moments. What I hadn't anticipated was that I wouldn't be able to put it down, and by Saturday I had finished it. So I had to find something else to read on holiday but I didn't care - I had been vastly entertained by the vividly painted characters and the fast-paced plot. Probably would have made a great airport read! Never mind...
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on 7 May 2013
What a fantastic read, full of deft characterization and with an absurd plot. The author has really assured comic timing and a superb turn of phrase that made me laugh out loud frequently. I finished the book in 2 days, even waking up early to read it before work.

Sean
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