Since George Lister’s chemical plant closed down, Innertown has been a shadow of its former self. In the woods that once teemed with life, strange sickly plants grow. Homes that were once happy are threatened by a mysterious illness.
Here, a young boy named Leonard and his friends exist in a state of confusion and despair, as every year or so a boy from their school vanishes after venturing into the poisoned woods. Without conclusive evidence of foul play, the authorities consider the boys to be runaways.
The town policeman suspects otherwise but, paralyzed with fear, he does nothing. And so it is up to the children who remain to take action. Their plan to stop the forces of evil that are destroying their town is at the shocking and terrifying heart of The Glister.
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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)About the Author:
John Burnside is the author of the novel The Devil's Footprints, the memoir A Lie About My Father, as well as five additional works of fiction and eleven collections of poetry published in the United Kingdom. The Asylum Dance won the Whitbread Poetry Award, The Light Trap was short-listed for the T.S. Eliot Prize, and A Lie About My Father won the two biggest Scottish literary prizes: the Scottish Arts Council Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award and the Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award.
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