The Ossians by Doug Johnstone


Book Description:

A rollicking and hugely enjoyable contemporary novel describing the outrageous mid-winter tour around Scotland of a group of musicians called ‘The Ossians’. The band’s driving force is twenty-four-year-old lead singer, Connor – intelligent but self-destructive, pretentious but charismatic, gloriously opinionated and with an extraordinary ability to get beaten up.

The band is on the verge of signing a major record deal before setting off on a two-week tour of the cities and hinterland of Scotland, a tour expected to culminate triumphantly in a defining Glasgow gig. On their travels there is a seagull massacre, hapless drug deals, a mysterious stalker, a radioactive beach, a bomb-testing range, an epileptic fit, a town full of riotous Russian submariners, deadly snowstorms, epiphanies, regular beatings and random shootings.

The Ossians is both hilariously readable and satirically astute, a story of rock’n’roll obsession as well as a search for identity and a sense of community, written with delicious insight, pace and brio.

My Thoughts:

I have read quite a few books by this author now and I have to admit I have become a huge fan of his work. The Ossians is one of the authors earlier books and actually felt quite different to his others.

As far as I’m aware all of this authors novels come under the crime/thriller genre and whilst there are drugs, guns and a bit of crime going on throughout this particular one, this felt more like a tale of one man’s road to self destruction and hitting rock bottom.

The story is told from the point of view of Connor, who with his twin sister Kate, are part of the band, The Ossians. I think for the group so far, even though not at the dizzy heights of stardom, they have pretty much lived the highlife of partying, fuelled with drugs and alcohol, and are making the most of the fame that they do have. The tour that they are going on is hopefully going to help them hit the big time but with a lead singer who seems to be spiralling out of control, their chances seem to be getting slimmer after each show.

Connor is a bit of an idiot, a selfish one at that, the drugs and alcohol are taking its toll not just on him, but the band as well as his relationship with Hannah who plays in the band. Through Connor, we can see just how much damage drink and drugs can do to someone and how reliant they soon become on them. Though he is a selfish idiot, there is still something of a likeable rogue to him that I think will draw readers and have a bit more empathy for him.

Through the bands tour, the readers are also taken on a tour of Bonnie Scotland. Readers will certainly come away from this novel knowing a lot more about the country as well as parts of it. Think of it as an enjoyable way to learn a bit of history. The author is certainly descriptive of the surrounding areas and you can easily visualise each place the band stops at.

I could very much empathise with Kate and Hannah as they watched someone they love spiral out of control. Though it felt like Connor was on the road to self destruction it is also very much a tale of self discovery as well. I certainly think there is a message in there somewhere and I very much enjoyed Martin’s role in it, Connors ‘guardian angel’.

The Ossians is a dark journey into a world of drink and drugs. I think it is one that can be enjoyed from young adults upwards. Yet another compelling read by one of my favourite Scottish authors.

Goodreads rating 4/5 stars.

The Ossians is available to purchase from Amazon.

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