Stonemouth
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Stonemouth

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  2,489 ratings  ·  366 reviews
Stewart Gilmour is back in Stonemouth. After 5 years in exile his presence is required at the funeral of patriarch Joe Murston, and even though the last time Stu saw the Murstons he was running for his life, staying away might be even more dangerous than turning up.
Hardcover, 357 pages
Published April 5th 2012 by Little, Brown (first published 2012)
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karen

iain (m.) banks writes supersmart sci-fi books that "you wouldn't understand, karen."

but he also wrote this, which i am proud to say i completely understand, and i really enjoyed.

it is a crime thriller, set in a small town in scotland, which is presided over by two competing, but not actively warring, gangster families who have made their fortunes and reputations getting their hands dirty. and not by doing any manual labor, yeah? although whacking people is, i suppose, technically "manual."

stew...more
Algernon

This is not a sympathy vote for a writer fighting against cancer. Stonemouth might be my top romance read of this year. I was already familiar with the daring, Big concept, galaxy spawning Culture books, but there is little to recognize in style and in plot when the writer turns towards contemporary fiction, towards the intimate, the understated character study. If I were to find a term of comparison, I would go for Graham Joyce, writing about growing up in a small town, learning about death and...more
Martin
I loved this book. I've read everything Banks has written and think this is probably his best, certainly up there with them anyway and better than his recent novels. Why? Because its a simple story written very well. He doesn't confuse the reader with science or technology, this book is set in the real world and is utterly believable. Such is his way that I couldn't help but read it quickly but then I realised I'd finished it and was going to miss it. The relationship between Stewart and Ellie a...more
David
It's always a fairly comfy kind of feeling when Iain Banks returns to writing about a parochial small town in Scotland, even more so when he's got strained personal relationships and matters of family hierarchy to deal with. You can tell he's deep within his comfort zone by the beauty of his prose, so few writers manage to maintain the pace of an airport read while maintaining a real earthy dark lyricism. So far so good.
Iain seems to have written this book by creating a huge cast of characters,...more
Ian Mapp
Its only when you read a master storyteller that you realise that most of what you have been recently reading has been very poor in comparison.

Banks is back on familar ground. We have remote scottish towns, young love, a past drama, funerals - all the usual subjects are ticked. Told from Stewart Gilmours perspective. He is returning to Stonemouth after being driven out of town 5 years previously. His mistake was taking up with a crime families daughter and getting cauaght cheating on her in the...more
Melissa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ben Thurley
I really like Iain M Banks (Iain Banks' sci-fi alter ego). I also love a lot of Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory, The Bridge and A Song of Stone especially.

But I really am quite tired of Banks’ wordy, trendy, pharmaceutically-enlightened, politically-spot-on, smart-arse characters. As for the the plot... the return to town, and reunion with the lost love unfolds with an irritating inevitability. Attempts to build intrigue seem half-hearted. Moral dilemmas around drugs, sex, work, celebrity all come...more
Andrew Brown
I am a big fan of Iain Banks' work; he is just about the only author whose books I get when they are released in hardback, rather than wait on the paperback publication. I've also started reading his Science Fiction works, published as Iain M Banks, but for the sake of clarity references to his oeuvre in this review are specifically to the "non-M" books.

After a number of books which failed to reach the heights of his previous works, his last book, Transition, was something of a return to form. I...more
Frank O'connor
This is a book about the relationship between the past and the present. It is a subject Banks writes about a lot, and a common factor between his realist fiction and science-fiction. In the latter case, the present happens to be the past, in the former, vice-versa.

The protagonist specializes in floodlighting and his first word is 'Clarity'. This automatically makes me think he will be an unreliable narrator but Banks could well be playing a double-bluff game. That opening word also reads like an...more
James
I was holding off this review until I re-read the book, just to make sure that I wasn't going to damn it with faint praise. The fact that I couldn't be bothered to get more than a few chapters into it a second time should really be all I need to say.

However, as a massive Iain (M) Banks fan, Stonemouth just comes across as Banks-lite, something I think that any good writer - and IMB is a great writer - could knock off without raising too much sweat. The plot burbles along nicely, no great twists...more
Jonfaith
Nostalgia and Privilege are linked and perhaps inverted in this strange tale which avoids the grisly but doesn't provoke constant laughter. Banks may simply be referring to small town Scotland. He may also be speaking of the EU. There was considerable space where history is to forgiven for mutual advantage. That may be my dizzy head .


The hero of the narrative is caught with his pants down and must return home five years after the fact. There is a Crow Road analysis under way. It isn't concluded....more
Pauline Ross
This is one of those odd books that I found enjoyable to read at the time, but when I put it down, I lapsed into so-what? apathy. The premise is a fairly trite one. A mid-twenties man returns to his childhood home for a funeral, and spends the time reminiscing about growing up, being astonished at the changes that have taken place and equally astonished at the things that remain unchanged, and resolving a few loose ends from his departure five years before. So far, so ho-hum. The twist here is t...more
Josh Ang
A young man, Stewart, returns to the small town that he grew up in to attend the funeral of an elder of an influential and shady family and revisits old wounds and the act of indiscretion that causes him to leave his childhood home in the first place. The premise is interesting enough, but the patchy writing and stilted dialogue are letdowns to an otherwise promising story.

Perhaps Banks tries too hard to make the setting and the youth of the protagonist credible - e.g. isn't it always the young...more
Nigel
I suppose this marks a return to form of sorts for Iain Banks. With the thesis-undermining caveats that I haven't read Steep Approach To Garbadale and I bloody loved Transition, Banks' non-M books have been pretty lacking since Whit. Generally readable and fun - if you ignore Song Of Stone - but lacking in depth, perhaps, with his customary skill, narrative flair, formidable imagination and exquisite writing all more or less present and correct, but not quite gelling to produce more than the sum...more
David
The author's name "Iain Banks" usually means science fiction to me. I was quite surprised by this remarkable novel. Stewart Gilmour returns to the gritty town of Stonemouth in Scotland, after five years of exile. We don't really know why he was exiled, but it had something to do with one (or both) of the crime families in the town. Banks maintains a tension as the story bounces between the present time and events that occurred five years ago. There is always an undercurrent of dark hatred and po...more
Tony
STONEMOUTH. (2012). Iain Banks. **.
In the small town of Stonemouth, Stewart Gilmore has returned to attend a funeral. You can tell that he is not necessarily welcome by a certain family there, and has to check with their members that his being there for that function is OK. If it weren’t, he would likely leave there in worse shape than he came. We don’t know what he did, and it takes almost more than 1/3 of the book to find out. To get to that point, we have to put up with Stu’s internal narrat...more
Dan Coxon
I'd heard this was a return to form, but it feels more like Banks-by-numbers. Many of his annoying quirks are still intact: the adolescent worldview where every girl is a stunner and every guy is a witty Wilde-wannabe, the occasional rant on political issues, the scant plotting. I know they're what make Banks who he is, but I wish he'd tone some of them down from time to time. The biggest disappointment of all is the slow, obvious plotting - somewhere along the way he's lost the ability to surpr...more
Raja Ram
Another enjoyable book from Ian Banks. Knowing that Ian was at deaths door did fill me with sadness as I turned the pages. His clever story telling (you never knew what you were going to get), sense of humour and hugely likeable characters will soon be coming to an end but will not be forgotten.

The book was well written evoking memories of the Crow Road at times. I'm not sure I'd want to live in Stonemouth or befriend the Murstons but I couldn't wait to find out how Stewart Gilmour's return wou...more
Lou Robinson
I really really really enjoyed Stonemouth. It's a very typical Iain Banks with definite comparisons to The Crow Road. It's set in a remote Scottish village with a cast of violent mafia styled characters (Are the Murstons really the Sopranos?) There's drugs, sex, gambling, murder....Stonemouth has it all. Sadly, there won't be any more books from Iain Banks. I've still got The Quarry to read and I think I'll go back through some of the older novels over time. But if you've never read any of his s...more
Merecraft
I thought I'd read all of Iain Banks' stuff, whether with middle "M" or not. Seems this one slipped under the radar somehow.

Anyway, I'm glad I found it because it's a real return to form, easily up there with The Crow Road and Espedair Street as far as his non-SF stuff goes.

It is, of course, full of the usual Banks cyphers and characters, taking in his usual stops of politics, dark humour, drug-taking, thriller, and romance along the way. If anything it's one of the more romantic books Banks has...more
Gordon
I have read a lot of Mr. Banks. Ok, all of them actually, some more than once. Especially the ones with an "M" in the author's name.

I think Stonemouth is probably really a 3.5 but given the slight dip in contemporary novels from Banks recently I will go with 4. Unlike other comparisons I feel the book has the clarity and crispness in describing contemporary Scotland very similar to Whit or Isis Amongst the Unsaved with the single person slightly insular perspective from A Song of Stone, although...more
Andrew
This book was the first Ian (M) Banks book that I had read - I had been meaning to for ages, but only got around to it after a trip to Scotland and a look in a local bookshop in the Scots Fiction section.
Very early into the book I knew I was going to enjoy it. Even if the story didn't grab me (which, initially, it didn't) the style of storytelling and language made the book very engaging. Seriously, this guy could make a chapter about a wet paper bag drying seem interesting.
As the politics of...more
Rob
I started reading this two days before the news that Iain Banks had died was announced; as someone who has loved this eclectic, fascinating author for many years now, it was impossible to judge it dispassionately. Despite such strong sentiment and high expectations I wasn't disappointed - this was one of those books it's all too easy to breeze through in a few sittings.

Banks was on familiar Crow Road ground with this one: small-town Scottish teens; crumbling family empires; dark secrets and fir...more
Simon Howard
Stewart Gilmore returns to Stonemouth, the small Scottish town of his birth, for a funeral. He's previously been run out of town by a local gang following an incident revealed only late in the novel, and possibly not entirely deserving of the lengthy build-up and sense of forboding. This novel is essentially his coming-of-age story.

This is Banks at his best, so there's plenty of darkness, and dark humour in spades. The strength of this novel is the relative mundanity of the darkness: nobody expl...more
Gerald
Until I read Banks's last novel, Transition, I thought he'd lost it. I hadn't read a good book of his in years. The Wasp Factory, The Crow Road, Walking on Glass and Espedair Street were amazing. Whit was okay, but The Business and Dead Air were very weak. Then came The Steep Approach to Garbadale. It was a great, compulsive read, but something about it really bothered me. It was the protagonist's early sexual experiences as a teenager. Told quite explicitly, almost voyeuristically. The writer w...more
Alan
Apr 30, 2013 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tossers trying to make good
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work, though usually with the "M."
The basic shape of Stonemouth is plain from the beginning. Stewart Gilmour did something very, very stupid—life-threateningly stupid, in fact. He got caught, and was exiled from the Scottish coastal town of Stonemouth, north of Aberdeen, which had heretofore been his home. He's been gone for five years, done fairly well for himself in London while he was away, and now he's been permitted to return under special dispensation in order to attend the funeral of Joe Murston, the patriarch of the Murs...more
Andrewphilip
The story centres round a small town boy, Stewart Gilmore, who is chased out of Scotland by a middle class mafia family. He is photographed in a compromising position with another women, when engaged to the older daughter within the crime family. He flees to London where he becomes successful – living a yuppie lifestyle.
The story focuses on a long weekend when he is allowed back to the town to attend a funeral but, also, goes back to earlier times in order to set the scene. I found these glimpse...more
David
It could have been a taut, tense thriller about a man returning from exile to the home town where a grudgeful local gangster family still lie in wait. Instead, Iain Banks' - tragically penultimate - novel is an engagingly breezy old thing where you basically get to hang out with the main character as he tries to reconnect and/or make amends with all of the colourful locals he left behind in the mist-enshrouded Scottish coastal "toun".
It's amused, conversational first-person narrative often come...more
Peyotitlan
This is my personal opinion and you can disagree with it, but...

I was slightly more excited about this book as from some of his other recent fiction books (excl Sci-Fi) as for the first time it didn't feel to me like a recycle of one of his previous stories.

However the things that got to me from this book are the main things why I was put off and was disappointed.

So the main character is in his 20s, with a good, arty job and loads of travel, FINE. But the problem is that for the first time in an...more
Laura
As always, the problem with loving a living writer's work is the wait between books - Stonemouth was worth it!

Set in a smallish port town in Scotland, the action shifts between modern day and Stewart's youth (if one can count scenes at age 20 as "youth"). As a boy he was part of a group of boys, getting into a bit of trouble that includes the really tragic death of one of them in a paintball match. As a young man he was friends with one of the town's two Big Men, Joe (godson to the other), taki...more
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This author also published science fiction under the pseudonym Iain M. Banks.

Banks's father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was once a professional ice skater. Iain Banks was educated at the University of Stirling where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. He moved to London and lived in the south of England until 1988 when he returned to Scotland, living in Edi...more
More about Iain Banks...
The Wasp Factory The Crow Road Complicity The Bridge Whit

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