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2016 Book Discussions > Stonemouth - Background/General, No Spoilers (August 2016)

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Dianne | 224 comments I did a little background reading after I read the novel, and found out some interesting tidbits. For one, this book was made into a two part BBC drama in 2015, who knew? Maybe those outside of the US had heard of this, but not me! I also read an article that said that the author was in love when he wrote this book, and you can tell!!! He infuses a lot of the passion, jealousy, psychological overanalzying, and perhaps personal mistakes??? into his lead character. So while this is a thriller, yes, it is NOT what I expected at all! In a good way, I might add. It is part thriller, part mystery, part crazy romance. Who will be joining?

Dianne | 224 comments Here is an excerpt from a Guardian March 28 2012 review of the book. I left in an intro blurb to the book but removed any other plot content.

Stonemouth is like Scottish mock-baronial architecture: a modern reinterpretation of a much older form. It is, in a paradoxical manner, a contemporary Victorian novel. It might have been called The Way They Live Now.

The events of Stonemouth are presented through the first-person narration of Stewart Gilmour, a twentysomething who is returning to the town for the first time in five years; ever since, in fact, he was drummed out of it by one of the local crime families, the Murstons. The occasion of the truce is the funeral of Grandfather Murston, but Stewart is (rightly) concerned that the younger members of the family may not be quite as keen on his limited period of grace. Over the weekend leading up to the funeral he reacquaints himself with old friends (and old enemies) and reminisces about his childhood and adolescence in classic Bildungsroman mode. Overshadowing a particularly gruesome fatal accident on the local aristocrat's estate and the unresolved apparent suicide of Callum Murston are Stewart's memories of the impossibly beautiful Ellie Murston, the girl he loved and lost and the reason for his exile.

[spoilers removed from article]

What has changed is Stewart himself, and the book has Banks's best evocation of the process of maturing. As the climax approaches, he meditates that "we all sort of secretly think our lives are like these very long movies, with ourselves as the principal characters, obviously. Only very occasionally does it occur to any one of us that all these supporting actors, cameo turns, bit players and extras around us might actually be in some sense real, just as real as we are, and that each one of them think that the Big Movie is really all about them." In terms of both the keynote plot and the subsidiary tragedies, Stewart gradually moves towards realising that there might be stories other than his own.

In this respect, though some readers might miss the dazzling variations in tone of The Crow Road, Stonemouth offers the ego realising the limitations of ego, in a style both plainspoken and ambiguous. Asked for an anecdote about Old Murston, Stewart remembers him claiming that "one of the main mistakes people make is thinking that everybody is basically like they are themselves". Although Stonemouth is not on the surface as political as Dead Air or The Business, the core revelation is supremely political: when Stewart complains that his circumstances are "all so unambitious, so weak, so default and mean-spirited; in a way so cowardly … [we] settle for that because it's easy to find that core of childish greed within us", many readers may silently cheer with his coda – "fuck me, a bit of fucking ambition here, for the love of fuck".

It's this clarity – the opening word of the novel, although here clarity is what Stewart is wishing for in the perpetual haar of the Stoun Firth – that prevents the ending being sentimental. There is more than a shade of Pip and Estella in Stewart and Ellie, and to create an emotionally satisfying while intellectually convincing ending is a rare achievement. Stonemouth may appear almost to be Banks's most conventional work to date; but this appearance is as deceptive as the diaphanous mists and shimmering fogs that wreathe the town. It seems odd to describe a novel that includes a memorable scene about defecation on a golf course and more than one murder as beguiling, but that is exactly what it is.

message 3: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2799 comments Mod
Thanks for getting this moving Dianne! I'm not sure I want to read this one but I may change my mind later in the month. I don't remember the BBC version but I watch very little television these days.

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments I found it a fun read, with some lovely language, and a bit of depth to it.

Dianne | 224 comments I love how pears captured the accent by how he wrote. I found myself saying some of the phrases out loud, like, didnae?

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I was struck by the author's writing from the very first word. I'll discuss that in another thread. So far I'm only about 100 pages into the book, but I am finding it intriguing.

Dianne | 224 comments Thanks Hugh!

message 9: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2799 comments Mod
I struggled to find many because most of the matches I was getting were reviews of the TV series...

Dianne | 224 comments I would watch the series just to hear the accents!

message 11: by Diego (last edited Aug 13, 2016 12:10PM) (new) - added it

Diego Anthoons I'll start in this novel next week, looking forward to it! Banks' The Wasp Factory is one of my favourite books ever, and Complicity was also great.

Dianne | 224 comments Diego wrote: "I'll start in this novel next week, looking forward to it! Banks' The Wasp Factory is one of my favourite books ever, and Complicity was also great."

oh good diego! I was wondering where you were since you picked this book! Interested to hear your thoughts on it :)

Michelle (topaz6) Can't wait to get to this book, this might be my next read!

Dianne | 224 comments Oh good Michelle! It's a fun one.

message 15: by Britta (last edited Aug 17, 2016 01:47PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Britta Böhler I just started the book, and only then (stupid me!) did I remember the series, and that I watched it... This is a bit of a bummer because after 50 pages or so, I also remembered what happens and how it ends.
And for those interested in the series: I didn't think it was very good. Some of the main actors were rather bad I thought (Steward, Ellie, Grier), and the suspense was missing most of the time. Loved the accent, though.

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Britta, thanks for the report on the series. My husband and I wondered about it.

message 17: by Diego (last edited Aug 28, 2016 11:04AM) (new) - added it

Diego Anthoons Because of family and personal circumstances, I haven't had as much reading time as I had expected this month. I'm sorry that I couldn't read the book and participate actively in the discussion of the book I nominated, but I hope that everyone enjoyed it.

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Diego, I did enjoy the book. We all have times when life interferes with our reading. I hope things are getting better for you.

Dianne | 224 comments Diego wrote: "Because of family and personal circumstances, I haven't had as much reading time as I had expected this month. I'm sorry that I couldn't read the book and participate actively in the discussion of ..."

that happens sometimes, no worries Diego. Glad you let us know though! If you have time to read it later feel free to post and we can check back in then.

message 20: by Gian (new)

Gian Kumar (gian_kumar) | 1 comments I've started this book last week and till now I simply enjoy passionate writing. I like the flow of the story and excited to know what gonna happen next.

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