I wavered between 4 and 5 stars for this, but it went on a little longer and dipped some in the middle. But that said, this was an incredibly glib, funny, understated, and deadpan book that occasionally had me laughing out loud. We begin with an English narrator being told he’s going to be the new foreman over a fencing crew in Scotland, specifically that he’s going to be in charge of Tam and Richie. He absorbs the news, and we’re treated to a kind of ambiguity or even an assumption that he will be a straight man among fools. The truth is not so simple.
As we move forward, we find that the crew first has to back to a previous fencing job, now gone slack, where the overbearing company manager and the overbearing farm owner have some specific and strong views about fencing.
This book is even weirder than I can make it sound. On the one hand it comes across as a kind of Blue Collar farce by way of Samuel Beckett, but it turns into something more by the end. It’s brilliantly deadpan, often hilarious, sad by its implications, but not by its actions. And if you’ve ever had this kind of weirdly specific job out of town for stretches on end, you’ll recognize a lot here. You might also begin to feel an encroaching oppressive and ominous cloud that slowly creeps over the narrative. It gives up black humor for realism at all the right turns.