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I'm sure most people have heard of this author Ian Rankin through the Rebus books and television series. This was however my first experience of his work.
About the Author
Ian Rankin was born in Fife, Scotland in 1960. He is the UK's Number 1 selling crime author. So far he has written 27 novels, of which his most successful have been the Rebus series of books. His first novel was 'The Flood', which originally was planned for Radio 4's Short story section but was considered too long so Rankin converted it into a novel instead.
He has received many awards for his work including an OBE in 2002 for his services to literature.
The Storyline of the book
The book is set in a small Scottish town called Carsden. Whose traditional industry of coal mining was closing down due to it being uneconomic to mine there any longer. This left the people in the town both unemployed and bitter.
It is written in three parts: 1963-1969 The Falling Time, 1985 Sandy and 1985 The Flood.
It centres around two characters the first is Mary Miller. Who due to an incident when she was only 10 years old this left her permanently with silver/white hair. And due to unfortunate chain of events she was cast by the town as a witch and an outcast.
The second is her son Sandy who she had before her 16th Birthday and out of wedlock. This was something very much frowned upon in 1969 by the town's people.
The book focuses on their lives in 1985 when Sandy was approaching his 16th Birthday and his mother is trying to find happiness of her own with a new man in her life.
Sandy has just sat his exams and is pondering his future. In a world with blurred boundaries between good and evil. He faces trying to escape from the past and emotional complexities of finding his feet in society. Sandy meets and falls in love with a mysterious gypsy girl called Rian who is living in a ruined Mansion. He is desperate to save from her elder brother Robbie and Aunt, who have according to Rian plans to exploit her. But who does he believe?
It is a tail of growing up and making choices.
My opinion of the book
For a first novel this was extremely well written. Rankin's lead characters were all excellent. They were so well described and their actions were in keeping with their characters. I felt they were believable and I could relate to them through his style of writing.
I found the book easy to read and a fascinating read too. It took me just two days to read, as I was bewitched by the interesting storyline and what would become of its key players, as I had no idea where the writer would be taking us next.
Rankin's aim was not to create a crime novel I believe more a book containing secrets, ingrained prejudices and revelations. Dealing with not only the excitement of growing up but also the pitfalls and worries associated with it too.
I also like the way he runs a theme of superstition and myth throughout the book.
I particularly liked the introduction at the beginning of the book. Advising the reader how the book came about and all the problems he experienced trying to find a publisher to take it on.
The only criticism from me was the book needed for my money an epilogue. As the ending of the book is both excellent and fast moving, I would like to have known what if anything changed in the town and what happened to the main characters in the story.
Maybe the story could of been expanded a little as I was disappointed when I had completed it and rather than have an action packed last few chapters the excellent mystery and suspense could have been expanded.
I did enjoy the authors quality of writing and found his style both exciting and stimulating.
I thought it was a well written and interesting book. I enjoyed it and would recommend it as such. I think also for fans of Rebus it might be interesting for them to read this and see how Rankin's mind worked towards his famous creation.
Having read this book I am keen to try another from this author.
This book is available on Amazon at £3.99 Published by Orion.
It has 251 pages
Many thanks for reading.
CPTDaniels December 2008
Ian Rankin is one of the most popular modern scottish authors, his work is generally best known for the character John Rebus, and the accompanying TV shows, but before Rebus was The Flood.
A novel set in a small Fife village, during the period when the traditional local industries were closing down. But it opens during the time when the local coal mine was still active, with a history of the female lead, Mary Miller.
The book is more the story of her son than of Mary herself but for us the reader to understand you need to know why Mary Miller is considered to be the local witch. Dealing with the whispered rumours about the death of the boy responsible for pushing her in to the hot burn (a chemical run off from the coal mine) the silver hair that marks her as different, being an unwed mother in the late 1960's as well as the witchcraft Mary has alot to deal with.
Sandy Miller is Mary's son, without a father figure he seems to have grown up to be normal young man, he has fallen in for a homeless Gypsy girl a relationship he is keeping secret from her brother who he also counts as a friend but like all women she has her secrets from Sandy.
Most of the story is told from Sandy's point of view, sections dealing with Mary tend to be shorter as this is Sandy's discovering who he really is as well as that the girl he loves is not to be trusted. At the end I felt quite unsatisfied, though the questions about Sandy's father are answered it felt somewhat abrupt, not something I have felt reading any of Rankins subsequent work, but as this was his first published book it isn't so odd that his style would have matured and filled out over time.
At 251 pages long this is shorter than most of the later books, and as with all the recently reprinted books there is an introduction from Ian Rankin and a chapter of the next book at the end (in this case the first chapter of the first Rebus book Knots and Crosses). The introduction is quite interesting as it tells you abit about Rankin's struggle to get published and the period in which it was written which does explain to a degree why this is so different to the Rebus books.
I bought this at either Asda or Tesco for £2 but it is avaliable from the usual online retailers for around this price or less.