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The Restraint of Beasts

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  1,873 ratings  ·  181 reviews

This award-winning novel tells the captivating tale of three men: Tam and Richie, good Scots lads at heart who have turned loafing into an art form, and their ever exasperated English foreman. Carefully laid plans go haywire from the start, and as they cover their tracks the best they can, the hapless trio heads south from Scotland to do a job in England, where they find t

Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 5th 1999 by Touchstone (first published September 7th 1998)
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The Best Use of Stylistic Language (best form/language)
127th out of 388 books — 424 voters
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I loved this one. Set in Scotland (with trips to England), but don't expect any descriptions of the places. There are none. This book is virtually all action and dialogue, which makes it an interesting study in technique. The humor is dry, black, and if you like that kind of humor, the novel is comic. If you don't like that kind of humor you'll spend the whole time wondering what in the hell is going on. And what exactly happened in the book is the real mystery. The book is an extended metaphor ...more
Anyway, before getting into that, the background: Booker-nominated (among other fancy prizes) first novel by Magnus Mills, loosely (I hope) drawing on his actual experiences building high-tensile (not, as the narrator will not hesitate to point out, high-tension) fences. In the book, y'see, a deadpan Englishman is made the foreman of two inept, lazy Scottish fence-builders, Tam and Richie. After some initial work in Scotland, fixing Tam and Richie's previous piece of shoddy work, the trio are sq ...more
Evelyn Rose
Even before we turn to the first page, Magnus Mills ensures he gets the ball rolling with a title that adumbrates many of the novel’s thematic concerns. Who exactly are the beasts, we hear ourselves asking; who is restraining whom? These existential questions build at a creeping pace, gaining in magnitude with every newly erected fence.

The opening sequence of The Restraint of Beasts plunges us into mundanity, governed by dialogue rather than description, and written in a terse, dry tone that onl
Tim Chaplin
Who would have thought that the construction of high tensile fencing could be so funny? At first I thought I wouldn't like this book but as the story develops then I found myself liking the gang of three workers.

Tam and Richie go South to England with their long suffering English foreman after their misadventures in Scotland. Their foreman has to 'sub' them when they run out of beer money or break tools, often out of his own money to keep them motivated. The three men live in a caravan, living o
Garland Fielder
This book sneaks up on you, like a quiet acquaintance you've known for years and has only shown you the slightest signs of being off. Then one day, you realize your dealing with something else entirely... but your so invested by that point your helpless. Mill's humor seeps into the prose like a rising tide, carrying all rational defenses against the absurdity of banal existence with it.

In all honesty, a remarkable read.
There are reminders here of Kafka and Becket and humor of a decidedly dark turn between turns of repetitious drudgery and pub-crawling that is the lot of these hapless laborers. Mills crams some memorable characters into the short 214 pages of this novel, including a father who builds a stockade to keep his son away, the obsessive owner of the fence-building company and the equally obsessed Hall brothers.

Kevin McMahon
I enjoyed this book right up until the abruptness of the end. However I then spent 10 minutes thinking about it and realised that there was more to this than just a story about 2 lazy Scots and an unnamed English foreman. The whole book is a metaphor for the often dreary and repetitive lives we lead and the futility of some of the tasks we do. Without spoiling the plot even life has little value and given little consideration.

I think my disappointment comes from the fact that I had imagined a nu
First of all: I like novels with characters who actually work (as most of us do). Have you ever seen a character of novels by Salinger, Updike, Roth or the classics (Flaubert, the Brontes, Dostojewski and Tolstoj) work (as in sell their time, energy and health for money)? Mills goes the other way round. His characters seem only to work without any leisure time (except some pints of English beer in the Queen’s Head after a rainy day spent with erecting posts, gates and fences), hobbies, emotions ...more
Oh, what a dark comedy read was this. I think I can even still hear the pounding of the fences being driven into the ground by the loafers who take pride in their lack of ambition. Of course, this book isn't about fence-building, but it's not about employment either. It's not about Scotland either. There.

Everything builds very slowly, and I, being the fool that I am, stayed right in step, believing the author was moving down one path, when he was taking me elsewhere. By the time I realized what
"The Restraint of Beasts" is small revelation for me - small only in size and the narrow bandwidth of the mundane that Mills uses to achieve his effects. The drudgery of manual labor serves as a multi-leveled barrier to keep the reader from trampling the hushed, ominous fable beneath. Physical violence emerges from the very process of property division and there is no safety from the spiraling descent into dehumanizing debt, restraint and hopelessness implied by the already-present, absurd syste ...more
Probably my all-time favourite novel (about erecting high-tension fencing). This is the book that got me back into reading. Indeed, if you're in a reading wilderness, or tired of your preffered genre (as I was with SF) try a bit of Mills. By turns hilarious, dark as pitch and as terrifying as old Stephen King; the word 'sinister' applies here, but is so subtly woven into the narrative it creeps up on you like a sneak-thief. To mention the plot may repell potential readers as it concerns a gang o ...more
Oct 28, 2008 Shawn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Shawn by: Courtney Grover
Entertaining, frustrating characters who I'd like to kick. The book was good but I'm pretty sure I haven't quite grasped all the underlying themes. I suspect the author is trying to say something about how we often build our own fences around our lives and restrain ourselves, often for good reasons but often times in ways that aren't good or productive for the individual. But the random accidental killings, I don't know what to do with those, besides giggle a little (shameful, shameful).
Wow. What a weird little book. Restraint of Beasts comes on as an utterly unremarkable account of manual labor but slowly, oh so slowly, cranks up the absurdity at a steady pace until the very abrupt end of the novel. By removing the lens through which we view our daily lives--and then throwing in a few carefully selected, sinister "wait...what?" moments--Mills manages to craft a strange tale of monotony and trivial drudgery drenched in sardonic humor. Highly recommended.
Lou Robinson
My boss lent me "The Restraint of Beasts", saying I'd either love it or think it was overhyped. It was a love it.
Not a lot really happens in terms of a story. There are no character introductions, the book launches straight into the present. And leaves you hanging at the end too. But it made me laugh out loud several times. It's black black humour, my sort of humour. I'd be keen to read more Magnus Mills!
Revolves around 3 characters, Ritchie, Tam and the narrator. The trio are sent off to england to build a fence. Some funny events occur, though it's not laugh out loud.
Magnus Mills was born in Birmingham, England but brought up in Bristol. He graduated with an economics degree from Wolverhampton then started a masters degree at the University of Warwick he but dropped out before completion.

Between 1979 and 1986 Mills built high-tensile fences for a living, an experience he drew upon for his first novel, The Restraint of Beasts. He had written a column for the London newspaper The Independent before becoming a novelist.

This book was short listed for the Booker
Perry Whitford
In Magnus Mill's first, Booker prize nominated novel, layabout Scottish labourers Tam and Richie find themselves with a new foreman after a string of sloppy jobs erecting the firms high-tensile fences, most recently at Mr. McCrindle's farm. Sent to correct their poor work under supervision, the new gang of three are also informed that they will need to travel down to England to do their next job.

Reluctant workers at the best of time, traveling south and staying in a mobile caravan is hardly thei
This is hilarious in a very dour, Scottish way. I'll be honest; it's dark enough I had to put it down for a couple of days. Not dark in a painful way, but dark in a repetitious, unending slog kind of way. But, once you push past that? It's pretty funny.

It's about Scots day laborers and their travails. But what I first thought was going to be a fairly standard workman's humor type quickly transformed into this dark, dour, funny, THING. I cannot stress this enough: the humor is DARK, almost Kafka-
I began this book with no preconceptions and no knowledge of the author. Before long, I was saying this is very funny, not laugh out loud, but continually wryly funny. The narrator's tone is understated, dry, matter of fact, but the situations become increasingly strange. And so the combination of matter of fact tone and bizarre situations makes for a fascinating read. There is almost no description of place and very little description of the people, but those people become very real, and very w ...more
A weird, weird novel about two Scottish louts and their English foreman installing farm fences. In this trio’s world most people, apparently, are destined to be treated either like fence posts or like corralled livestock. The book is a darkly comic existential puzzle, superficially mundane and subtextually mystifying. Perhaps the book comments thematically on the history of the Highland clearances and grazing “enclosures” (I don’t know enough of that history to be certain).

Highly recommended for
Man, I loved this book. It's short. It's sense of humor is very dry. It's dark and violent. I thought this book was a treat. I picked it up from a table at a cafe, where it's original owner had either left it by accident or abandoned it. When I first started reading it, the book held a menace so quiet that i think I was unaware of how wicked it was actually going to be. It's prose is succinct to the point of being sparse, yet I felt that I needed to savor it slowly. This was a good one, reminisc ...more
Frank Jacobs
As any universe built by Magnus Mills, this one dresses its weirdness in the everyday clothes of a seemingly banal story: a team of unsophisticated Scottish fence-builders out on a job to the English countryside, where rain and weak beer form the bookends of days spent in drudgery and mischief – the title is an obvious ambiguity, referring both to the animals being fenced in and the builders doing the fencing – but the unexpected twists culminate in an unexplained ending that casts a different l ...more
Nesa Sivagnanam
The beasts in Magnus Mills's first novel, are its three central characters: the nameless narrator, a rather unassertive English foreman for a fence contractor in rural Scotland, and his assistants, Tam and Richie, slacker metalheads and lifelong drinking buddies.

Previously assigned to build a fence for Mr. McCrindle, a local dairy farmer, Tam and Richie have done a predictably negligent job, and when the narrator joins them to complete the work, things begin to go hilariously, fatally wrong.

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It's been a long time since I gave a book a five-star rating. The writing was deceptively simple. The prose style is the very definition of efficiency in story telling. It makes Hemmingway look like a rambling poet of Tolkien-like propensities.

This book is not for everyone--many readers will be put off by the mundanity of the subject--erecting fences. But, it speaks to the writer's talent, that in spite of that inherent difficulty, he worked out a compelling, tension-filled story.

Another reason
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This book received a wealth of publicity, some of it adverse, when it emerged that the author was a mere bus driver. The Booker Prize committee who nominated it were accused of tokenism. However, the book is a deceptively simple account of the ins and outs of manual work - unsurprisingly, a very scantily covered topic in the world of literature. When have you ever seen an author roll his or her sleeves up?
Dec 03, 2009 Skip rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: humor
Black comedy about a crew of fence diggers, working in Scotland and England: merciless bosses and hard labor interspersed with lots of smoking and the occasional accidental client death topped off by massive nightly beer consumption.
I don't care about high tensile fencing, drinking beer, or picking up girls. And yet, I found myself making my way through this entire novel in almost one read.

Mundane and outrageous incidents live side by side and are treated the same. There is some hilarious stuff, like when a woman informs the man she's just slept with that "she is not a fence post" and he is so unaware he has no idea what she's telling him.

I am not really sure what to make of this novel. It is absurdist, without doubt, and
Sumeyye Pa
The absurdist element gives a dimension to the book that makes one feel like reading a kafkaesque humour, if such a thing is possible! If it is possible, this book is one of the best examples to it. My suspicion about the possibility comes from the fact that I did not find myself crack any smiles but in constant tension even when reading the humorous parts.
Oh, so much about fencing! I admit I skipped some of those details about fencing.. But I suspect they had important clues about what was goi
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“– В настоящее время кабель пролегает под самой поверхностью земли. Он размещен там временно. Это довольно неудовлетворительно. Я хочу похоронить его глубже.
– Насколько глубже?
– Чтобы о нем можно было забыть.
– А-а.
– Вы же умеете хоронить, правда?
– Ну, наверно.”
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