The Restraint of Beasts tells a very simple story which shouldn’t go unread.
What happens is this: a three-man outfit which puts up fences for
a living is sent on a job from Scotland to England. A power struggle
emerges between the foreman and the other two, but generally the three of them
knock along together all right. Driven by routine these fence-makers wake up in
the morning in their caravan, smoke fags, put up fences, smoke more fags, eat
sausages, go to the pub, smoke fags, drink pints, complain about the pissiness
of English beer, get stared out by the locals, smoke fags, return to their caravan,
smoke fags… and so the action continues.
This might sound tedious but it’s far from that – with its detached voice and
understated irony, and its unexpected twists which invade the apparent normality
of the story, The Restraint of Beasts is both sinister and quietly humorous, an
unusual mix. The whole thing works so well because Mills has some classy tricks
up his sleeve which he produces with immaculate comic timing – he writes with a
deadpan humour that’s as disturbingly original as it is enviable.
Prepare to be gently shocked and quietly surprised.
Reviewed by Victoria Williams