A wonderful combination of a gripping rollercoaster with moments of pure tenderness thrown in.

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STONEMOUTH

BY IAIN BANKS

434 pages

Iain Banks has the wonderful ability of hooking you into the world he creates, in this case that of Stewart, a successful young Scot living in London who is returning home to Stonemouth in Scotland to attend the funeral of Joe Murston, head of the powerful and influential Murston family. It quickly emerges, that this visit has serious underlying tensions, the reason for which gradually unfolds as he meets up with old school friends, family and finally his ex- fiancé Ellie, the love of his life.

As Stewart recalls childhood memories so begins an almost cathartic unravelling of his adolescence. Has the town moved on? At first it seems as if everything is the same and Stewart quickly slips into the old habits of drinking and hanging out with his old mates. Yet as he meets various people from his past you realise, like in any small town, there are those who get away and move on, those who make the best of themselves and those who get left behind.

We are witness to moments of shocking trauma, the awkwardness of first relationships and the regrets of impulsive decisions. Banks’s characters are raw and genuine with their flaws and awkwardness laid bare. All this is set against the backdrop of Banks’s hypnotic descriptions and observations of human nature.

This book does not have the dystopian nature of The Wasp Factory which is one of the Den’s Dozen top reads, rather it is a combination of a gripping rollercoaster with moments of pure tenderness thrown in.

The book was also made into a two part BBC drama in 2015.

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