The Steep Approach To Garbadale


Another book finished – and, by this year’s standards, in rapid quick time too. How did I manage this one so quickly? Well, I’ve always liked Iain Banks’ stuff and when he’s so minded he can write very readable stuff. That seems to have been the case with his new mainstream (e.g. no middle ‘M’) novel ‘The Steep Approach to Garbadale’.

By this stage you probably know what to expect from Mr Banks. As ever it’s a good read, the characters are interesting enough, and the story rattles along nicely between the past and the present. The back story details lead character Alban’s lustful obsession with his cousin Sophie whilst in the present he is attempting to persuade his relatives not to sell the family company to an American predator.

And yes if you’ve read ‘The Crow Road’ (to which his publishers seem keen to compare this) then it may sound a little familiar – remote Scottish country seat (check), dark family secrets (check), (misplaced) obsession with a member of the opposite sex (check) and slightly disappointing ending (check).

Despite the fact that I usually enjoy Banksy’s storytelling sometimes the journey to the end of the book is more enjoyable than the ending itself and that’s the case here. According to the blurb the dark secret revealed at the climax of the book changes everything. Except that it doesn’t.And even if it did it comes so close to the end that there’s no time to examine any consequences almost as if the novel was all finished in a rush.

As ever Banks comments on real life issues through his characters although the two pages on the Iraq invasion, however heartfelt and justified, still seem artificially shoehorned into the story.

I’m making this sound like a bad book. It’s not – far from it. The suicide scene is chillingly well written and provides a contrast to some amusing scenes in the book, one of which is laugh out loud funny (if not as funny as the dog in the church scene from ‘Espedair Street’). But had the last couple of chapters lived up to the rest of the novel then it could have been a great one.

Banks of course is a godsend when it comes to rock references and ‘Garbadale’ is no exception. So it’s easy to provide some musical entertainment this evening and here’s a track from one of the bands name-checked within its pages.

Talking Heads – Memories Can’t Wait (from ‘Fear Of Music’)

Buy Iain Banks novels and Talking Heads records here.


  1. Ed says:

    very possibly my favourite talking Heads song (yes, even above Psycho Killer and Once In A lifetime). Will look forward to reading iain Banks’ latest.

  2. I think Fear of Music is defintely my favourite Heads album, Ed. I never totally felt the Remain In Light stuff although it was easy to admire.

    They were pretty much a pop band after that (old fashioned use of the word pop, granted) but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Comments are closed.