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The Glister: A Novel Hardcover – March 10, 2009


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Read the first chapter of John Burnside's The Glister [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; 1ST edition (March 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385527640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385527644
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #970,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, March 2009: George Lister's secretive chemical plant fueled Innertown's economy for decades, but since its closure, its legacies are poverty, clusters of rare cancers, and a local wilderness populated with rumors of an unnatural selection of misshapen wildlife. When Mark Wilkinson--the first of several teen-aged boys to disappear every 12-18 in the coming years--is found hanged in the "poison woods" over a bizarre shrine of boughs, glass, and tinsel, the town constable chooses to cover up the atrocity (to the pleasure of Innertown's corrupt string-pullers), leaving the town's long-abandoned youth to take responsibility themselves. The Glister is a strange and affecting book, working as both simmering horror and a Dennis Lehane-style thriller: think The Blair Witch Project meets Mystic River meets It. Burnside's deliberate prose strikes a pitch-perfect balance between the insidious banalities of industrial society and the unacknowledged horrors lurking in the varicose network of cracks in its crumbling foundations, the spaces where institutionalized cowardice and naïve accountability meet to settle the fates of a damaged society's innocents. It's a story that will stay with you long after its last harrowing pages. --Jon Foro

Amazon Exclusive: Jim Crace Reviews The Glister


Jim Crace is the author of nine novels, including Being Dead, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize and won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2000. In 1997, Quarantine was named the Whitbread Novel of the Year and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Crace has also received the Whitbread First Novel Award, the E.M. Foster Award, and the Guardian Award. Here he reviews John Burnside’s The Glister for Amazon:

I lent my copy of John Burnside’s The Glister to a friend the moment I finished it. I wanted her to share the novel’s troubled beauty and its bleak but tender outlook on the urban predicament, the state of the nation, the human condition--well, pretty much everything. “It’s a triple murder mystery,” I explained. “Teenage boys are being wiped out. So is the landscape where they live.” In my view, The Glister was not only a thrilling and engaging read but an unusually multi-layered and nuanced work of startling transcendence and importance. No one could think otherwise. Everyone should try it.

She said she was puzzled by the last scene, yet only a few weeks later she was recommending The Glister to her reading group and naming it her Novel of the Year. “So, you read it again?” I asked. But no, she hadn’t needed to encounter it a second time. As soon as she had finished its final page, a little baffled by its meaning, the story had started haunting her. It brewed in her subconscious as all great fiction does until, level by level, the book’s unnerving ambiguities began to clarify themselves, she was getting it. “It’s a sleeper,” she said, mixing her metaphors. “It creeps up on you.”

My experience of The Glister has been much the same. It is a novel with an afterlife. It continues to steep in my imagination one year after reading it and to imprint its indelible images on to my comprehension of the modern world. I now cannot help but recognize Burnside’s devastated, weed-choked Innertown in almost every industrial city that I visit on both sides of the Atlantic. And I better understand the dangerous boredom of those adolescent gangs on street corners throughout the world, their brutal, plucky hopelessness. But most importantly the novel has taught me that if we want to find an optimistic narrative to help us cope with our failing cities, their increasingly toxic landscapes and their splintered families, we have to hunt for it, as Burnside has, in the darkest corners and in the most menacing of company and not deceive ourselves with bright, narcotic fairytales.

Quite what the glister of the title is, I cannot say for sure. The novel doesn’t want to tell me exactly. It wants me to be teased. But I’m still brewing on the question, I’m still haunted by the book. There is no greater praise than that. --Jim Crace

(Photo © Lorentz Gullachsen)

From Publishers Weekly

In his bleakly beautiful seventh novel, Scottish author Burnside (The Devil's Footprint) delivers a cautionary tale illustrating that greed and an indifference to suffering are the real horrors of modern life. In recent years, five teenage boys have disappeared from the coastal village of Innertown, where an abandoned chemical plant deep in the forest is slowly poisoning its rapidly declining population. The official line is that the missing boys are seeking a better life away from the town whose sole business is slow decay. A 15-year-old lad, who's found solace in books and foreign films that he can barely understand, is determined to find out what happened to his friends and why the town's lone cop spends so much time in those tarnished woods. Burnside expertly details an apocalyptic landscape where the expectation of failure is rampant. While the ending feels hurried, Burnside's flawless prose explores how defeat is only a state of mind. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

The ending, which feels rushed and somewhat arbitrary, ultimately betrays his lack of ideas.
Hobbled
The mood of the place is set immediately, and just when you think things couldn't get any more awful in Innertown, something else horrible is revealed.
F. W. Young
Perhaps I expected the writing to be more poetic since the author is a published poet but in this too I was disappointed.
George M Woods

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on March 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
John Burnside's The Glister opens in a modern day ghost town. The chemical plant that once fused the city with life and prosperity has been closed and left to rot. Everything in the town can be described as dead and deformed. The town's adults are apathetic, depressed and diseased. The children are violent, promiscuous, and haunted. But no one ever leaves the town, unless of course, they disappear.

This book is not a typical horror or mystery novel. It's more of a very long dark fable complete with an abstract ending and an obscure moral. This is not an easy read; it can best be described as uncomfortable and difficult. Burnside manages to infuse every aspect of his tales with menace, down to the last comma. There is sex, violence and adult language--the majority of it committed by young adults. It's also the kind of book that may torment it's readers for months. If there is a more terrifying or disturbing novel out there, I have yet to read it. I'd warn anyone considering the novel that it is scary and edgy. You may not like it, but you should definitely read it.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By B. Calhoun on March 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Much like previous reviewers, I found the premise of this novel intriguing. Disappearing children, mutated animals, a crooked run-down town's cover-up. Reading the book flap makes this novel out to be a dark, twisted tale. In the traditional sense, this is not the case. The story portrayed on the book flap never really occurs. The flap jacket paints a story of a group of kids on a quest for answers to the dark town secret. In reality, this entire premise consists of one major scene that involves a stereotypical, unoriginal belief one kid has formulated.

When looked at as a character study, this book is a winner. The characters are well fleshed out and Burnside does a fine job of getting the reader to fall quickly into the stories of these characters.

The writing that accompanies these characters is superb. As others have stated, the entire book is taut with a dark, lingering air of horror throughout the book. That is why the last 30 pages are such a major disappointment. The climax and ultimate unveiling of the mystery is thin, lazy, and rushed.

Ultimately Burnside should have put these characters in a setting he could handle or wrap up this premise with a decent ending. I feel cheated after taking the time to read this book, albeit slim, only to come up with a pathetic ending.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Koch VINE VOICE on March 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The town and the people of Innertown have never been the same since George Lister's chemical plant shut down, especially the woods. There is something evil in the woods. Every year a boy or two disappears, never to be seen or heard from again. The police won't do anything about the disappearances as there is no sign of foul play. There are a few people who believe otherwise and they are town policeman, John Morrison in addition to Leonard and his friends. It seems that Morrison knows there is evil hiding in the woods but he just like the rest of the authorities will not do anything about it. So it is up to Leonard and his friends to fight the darkness, before it claims the rest of them.

Having never read any of author, John Burnside's other previous works to go off of what type of author Mr. Burnside is; I thought The Glister was a hauntingly dark and gruesome piece of work. That is a good thing. It drew the reader in and enveloped them in Evil. I couldn't stop reading. The Glister is like riding a horrifying roller-coaster ride that you can't get abandon till the end, so all you have left to do is just hold on tight and enjoy the ride. I like that horror fans as well as anyone looking for a good scary will enjoy The Glister. This is one book you will want to get your hands on as soon as possible. You won't regret it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on March 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Past a small dreary town, through a poisoned wood, there sits the ruins of a chemical factory. The factory was once the heart and purpose of the town, but it is shut down now, abandoned and decaying. The people are sick and, without options, stay there to die mysterious and painful deaths. But for the teenage boys of Innertown, the most immediate threat is random, unseen and almost unacknowledged.

In THE GLISTER by John Burnside, teenage boys disappear --- not very often and not very many, but enough to convince 15-year-old Leonard that he is not at all safe in his hometown. Like his fellow teenagers charged with caring for dying parents, he dreams of leaving Innertown but isn't sure how to do so. He escapes instead through the meager literary offerings in the library, sex with his emotionally distant girlfriend and contemplative time at the old chemical plant. His mother is gone, his father mute and damaged, and the other adults around him unable to protect him from the violence and illness that is killing Innertown.

Burnside's tale is beautiful and menacing, toxic and alluring, like the empty and sinister chemical plant that has poisoned Innertown. Though told from the perspective of several characters, this is really Leonard's book --- at once a coming-of-age tale, a murder mystery, a horror story and an apocalyptic warning about industry and responsibility. Leonard is a tender and an innocent young man, though guilty of many trespasses, and he embodies the complexities, fears, anxiety and desperation of Innertown.

When Leonard finds himself in the heart of the chemical plant, with a stranger he thought was his friend, he comes face to face with the evil that the plant has manifested --- the Glister.
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