x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Stonemouth: they won't let you come home again

It's only in the hands of a supreme talent like Iain Banks that a story this captivating could arise from such a comparatively mundane framework.

Stonemouth, by Iain Banks
Stonemouth, by Iain Banks

"Clarity. That would have been good."

With an opening line like that, coupled with the first glance of the murky Scottish town of Stonemouth emerging from the mists, "clarity" is precisely what the reader seeks from the outset. And sure enough it arrives, little by little, creeping from the midst of the chaos that Banks unfolds, as protagonist Stewart Gilmour reluctantly makes his way back to his hometown.

Five years previously, Stewart had left Stonemouth for a fresh start in London and this would have all been fine if it hadn't been for The Girl He Left Behind. With a funeral bringing Stewart back to town, he decides it's finally time to explore what went wrong between him and Ellie Murston. The trouble is that the rest of the Murstons - the town's de facto criminal family - aren't as keen on reconciliation as he is.

It's only in the hands of a supreme talent like Iain Banks that a story this captivating could arise from such a comparatively mundane framework. Witty and reflective, Stonemouth can be counted as another solid addition to Banks' already stellar portfolio.