The Steep Approach to Garbadale

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by Mike

The Steep Approach to Garbadale
By Iain Banks
Publisher: Abacus

He is collecting her, scooping up the crumbs that fall from her mouth, clutching at them, cradling them.

One of Iain Bank’s main strengths comes from writing scenes that he is able to imprint on your mind with such force that they stay there like a branding. If you were to flip anyone’s head open that has ever read one of Iain’s books, I’m sure you would see some of his paragraphs stamped there, smouldering slightly.

The best of these in The Steep Approach to Garbadale is where a woman dies:

Her auburn hair sucked down at last like fine tendrils of seaweed.

The story revolves around Alban Wopuld who, after years of exile, is pulled back to his family’s highland estate, Garbadale. The family has amassed a fortune around their board game, Empire! and has to decide if they are going to sell out to the Americans who want to buy them out.

Which is okay – it’s not something that grabs you on the dust jacket, but beneath that is a tale of Alban finding, loosing and becoming obsessed by his first love Sophie who just happens, unfortunately for him, to be his cousin.

There is the need to be accepted, somehow, some time, by his girl in the garden, by his lost love, by Sophie.

Alban hasn’t seen Sophie for some time. Sophie is going to be at Garbadale. There lies the real story. And it is a story really well told. It’s moving, rings true to life and has a twist in the tale. Iain takes us with Alban as he wrestles with his forced separation from Sophie:

He’s getting another roaring in his head, and tunnel vision. Last time this happened he’d been smacked full in the face by a football.

How he has been left with only his memories of her that he collects like moths, all pinned and catalogued:

He just pictured her as the same girl she had always been, but stopped, frozen, paused, something caught in amber.

And towards the end he is left asking:

What do I really want? He thinks. This is, of course, an extremely good question. It was just such a pity that, life as it tended to be, it so rarely came as part of a matched pair, with an extremely good answer.

The whole thing hooks you in; you care about Alban and what lies before him as he scree runs down the steep approach to Garbadale to discover his fate.

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, THE WASP FACTORY, in 1984. He has since gained enormous popular and critical acclaim for both his mainstream and his science fiction novels.

For Iain's web site click here.

Coming soon The View From Here Interview with Iain.

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