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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)
The ending, which feels rushed and somewhat arbitrary, ultimately betrays his lack of ideas.
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.
Perhaps I expected the writing to be more poetic since the author is a published poet but in this too I was disappointed.
This book was selected by the book club I belong to, and I found this book to be a very frustrating read. Read morePublished on May 29, 2012 by green tea
I started out loving this book. It was wonderfully written and the language is quite delightful in places. Read morePublished on March 13, 2010 by Susan K. Jones
Although I enjoyed this book a lot, I felt like it lost its way toward the end. I was disappointed because I did feel like it could have been so much more. Read morePublished on March 11, 2010 by E. Beale
Mesmerizing, beautiful, sad and hopeful. This is a deeply spiritual and haunting book. I can't stop thinking about it.Published on February 13, 2010 by Gea
Burnside creates a bleak landscape in the not too distant future, the greed and indifference of contemporary life displayed in the tainted land of the Innertown. Read morePublished on September 9, 2009 by Luan Gaines
Doubleday/Nan A Talese
This is not horror of the Stephen King variety (though i have nothing against SK).... Read more
I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book, but then it trailed off into a hallucinogenic haze, which some folks find eerie and darkly poetic. Read morePublished on September 6, 2009 by Donna C
If I hadn't known before I started The Glister that author John Burnside was also a poet, I could likely have guessed it by the end of the first page. Read morePublished on August 25, 2009 by Betty-Anne Olton
Hmm, I finished this book about ten minutes ago, cracked a tin of the liquid opinion driver and settled down to think about this book. Read morePublished on July 24, 2009 by Pastor of Disaster