Jonathan Cape, £16.99

The Deadman's Pedal, By Alan Warner

This Bildungsroman begins slowly but builds into a majestic coming- of-age story in the 1970s.

Alan Warner achieved prominence in the 1990s with his first novel, Morvern Callar: a contemporary classic which fused rave culture with the anomie of working-class life in the Scottish Highlands. His subsequent works have maintained a focus on popular culture, while incorporating avant-garde influences. But his latest novel is a departure – a coming-of-age story set in the 1970s.

It commences with a lyrical prelude about the railway route that is to be the story's backdrop. Then comes an episode about a royal visit in 1961 to the Broken Moan estate of local dignitary Andrew Bultitude. Only after these apparently false starts do we begin the main narrative concerning Simon Crimmons, who decides to skip sixth form and leave school early. Crimmons spurns the family haulage business, instead opting for a job on the railways. He must also choose between the relationship he has plunged into with his schoolfriend Nikki and pursuing Bultitude's daughter, Varie.

This is a novel that foregrounds bridges and divides. The biggest gulf is between the implacable majesty of the mountainous landscape and the community scrabbling for a living in and around it. Yet there are plenty of human divisions too. Warner captures the class divide between the nouveau riche Crimmonses and the old money of the eccentric Bultitudes in layers of acute observation, some wryly comic.

Crimmons is oddly adult for his callow years – at times his matter-of-fact reactions to events can seem as mechanical as the trains he drives. Nevertheless, emotional turmoil surfaces when his father fights with an employee and then tells his son of his own rites of passage during the Second World War.

Warner presents us with a narrative reminiscent of a 19th-century Bildungsroman. The gamble pays off handsomely. For the first 70 pages or so the story's impact seems limited. After that the novel steadily becomes more compelling. Finally, the patterns of Warner's grand design emerge, as mesmerising as the Highland scenery he describes with such sublime intensity.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk