A new novel from the author of CANAL DREAMS and THE WASP FACTORY, which explores the subjects of God, sex, death, Scotland, and motor cars. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (49)
Quirky, complex, worth the effort.
"I just pick up my stories as I amble along, little bits of this, little bits of that. It gets easier the longer you've been at it."This quote from author Iain Banks is a perfect description of how 'The Crow Road: A Novel' comes together.There's a lot going on in this novel, and its not a book you can leave by the bedside and read before sleep.You've got to be alert or you'll be endlessly confused.
Prentice narrates a good deal of the story, the rest is narrated in 3rd person.Prentice is well written as a 20ish student with little direction, plenty of emotion, a smidge of confusion, and a wicked sense of humor.He loves his family, can't manage conflict, is unable to express his emotions in any meaningful way, and engages in self-destructive activities right when you think he should straighten up and deal with his life.All in all, a pretty typical 20-ish male.He returns to his home, a small village in Scotland (from Glasgow where he attends uni) for his beloved grandmother's funeral.We are then introduced to the remainder of his family, save his missing uncle.Rory has been missing for years, and if Prentice can find him, perhaps he can find himself as well.He is given stacks of Rory's papers to go through, writings from his past, as well as hints to where he may have gone.Did he abandon his previous life?Is he hiding somewhere in an exotic locale?Did someone kill him?Banks' ability to follow Prentice along, introduce us to multiple other characters, jump back to the past, while throwing in a little romance is a sign of his genius as a writer.The Scottish verbage throughout takes you right to Scotland and you feel the chill air, see the fog, and ultimately care about these people.The Crow Road is an excellent read, a family saga that will grab ahold of you as you amble along.
More traditional novel for Iain Banks, and still entertaining!
Sometimes there's a lot of meaning and power in a simple opening line."Call me Ishmael."Now there's a classic.
How about, "It was the day my grandmother exploded."
That's how The Crow Road begins, with a taste of the macabre, gloom, and, well, action in a perverse way.But this opening line morphs into something understandable, and the novel begins.
Prentice McHoan, is obsessed with his missing Uncle Rory and the untouchable beauty Verity.McHoan's family has its idiocentricities, and there is tension regarding religion, politics, and relationships.
""But dad, Mrs. McBeath says there is so a God, and you'll go to a bad place.'
'Mrs. McBeath is an idiot.'
'No she's a teacher, dad!She's a teacher!' (p. 25-26).
As Kenneth and Prentice were discussing the very sudden death of one of Prentice's friends. Kenneth said "'Fairness is something we made up... It's an idea.The universe isn't fair or unfair; it works by mathematics, physics, chemistry, biochemistry... Things happen; it takes a mind to come along and call them fair or not.'" (p. 337).And later, Kenneth argues, "'You're too frightened to admit how big everything else is, what the scales of the universe are, compared to ours; distance and time.You can't accept that individually, we're microscopic; here for an eye-blink.Might be headed for better things, but no guarantees.Trouble is, people can't believe they're not the centre of things, so they come up with all these pathetic stories about God and life after death and life before birth, but that's cowardice.Sheer cowardice.And because it's the product of cowardice, it promotes it; 'The Lord is my shepherd'. Thanks a ... lot. So we've got to live like sheep'" (p. 337).
Banks flows the story between generations, focusing on Kenneth, McHoan's father, and McHoan.There is a lot of storytelling, real and imagined.
The title?"Her flat was on Crow Road, not all that far away, down near Jordanhill.As she showed me into the place, down a hall lined with old movie posters, I asked her if she'd heard Grandma Margot use the saying:away the Crow Road (or the Craw Rod, if she was being especially broad-accented that day).It meant dying; being dead.'Aye, he's away the crow road," meant 'He's dead.'" (p. 126).
There's mystery developed in this book, and Banks works to tie off all the loose strings before the end.Enjoy.
A Scottish blackbird pie
This is by turns a mystery, a family saga, a contemporary love story, a coming of age novel, and a celebration of the soul of Scotland. All baked together under the author's withering, relentless satiric eye for exposing hypocrisy and telling the truth, whatever difficulties that poses for oneself and others. "Crow Road" is both the residence of Rory (uncle of the book's narrator Prentice McHoan) who serves as a role model to the young man as someone who lives relatively free from society's constraints. Prentice's growth throughout the book is in integrating those values with the necessity to work, love, and live in the world. Crow Road is also a symbol of death, as family members one by one succumb to their various fates, to the consternation of Prentice, and the imaginal figure of Rory after his death continues to mediate for Prentice, reminding him of the frailties and glories of the transient present. "The Crow Road" is perhaps the best of Banks' realist novels that I have read (although "Whit" still may be my favorite). In any case, it is highly recommended. I also liked the BBC miniseries of "Crow Road." It is a worthy adaptation and well worth checking out on Netflix.
Could not get into this book
I gave it a good try, but when 3/4 of the way through the novel, you aren't sure what the plot or message is, you have to put it down. There isn't a thing wrong wiht the writing - I rather enjoyed the author's voice at times - but good writing wasn't enough to support this one.
In The Midst Of Life We Are In Death
I'm afraid I can't join in the profusion of plaudits of The Crow Road as a literary work, but nor can I dismiss it as being "boring" or "too long" as other readers have.Yes, the book is indeed witty, and I truly don't understand the problems with "Scottish dialect" that other reviewers seem gratuitously to throw into their reviews.One thing that actually kept puzzling me was that there truly wasn't much Scottish dialect or too much British dialect for that matter to speak of herein.The idiom of much of the writing is, in fact, American - perhaps having to do with the fact that Banks spent several years in America before penning this book.
So, what am I to say here?First off, a great many people die unexpectedly, or not so unexpectedly, depending on how one interprets things - Banks leaves this question, delightfully, open-ended.But if you don't fancy pondering your eventual demise, this book is not for you. But what really kept me going was my gradual identification with Prentice Mchoan and his eventual love interest, "Ash" or Ashley.I started to realise, and it began growing on me, that Prentice was coming of age at the same time that I did, springing from the same upper-middle class background, listening to the same music (Morrissey, anyone?), drinking about as much (quite a lot!), and having the same sort of friendships and relations with women that I did, the only difference was that he was Scottish, whilst I was English.It dawned upon me somewhere near the end that this book was a sort of historical artifact of a sensitive, intellectual young man coming of age in Britain at the same time as I (though I didn't have quite so many funerals to attend). For this rather personal reason, the book was significant for me: The late night pub crawls, the hangovers, the drunken (and frequently stoned) commiseration with friends on rooftops, graveyards and other odd places.Above all, the sisterly friends who, ever so gradually, become love interests struck a deep chord.All these interludes were so spot-on to me that when the first Gulf War became obvious as the historical backdrop, I felt so strongly that I was reading about an era in my life and in history nearly two decades past that it was terribly striking.I don't know if the youth of today with their ubiquitous mobiles and text messaging are, in the end, very much different from the youth in the 80's and early 90's in Britain.But cultural differences are bound to exist between different eras.This was my culture, my era.It was interesting.It was awkward.It was weird.We were young!
As for the rest of the "mystery" in the plot and what not, it didn't engage me so much, perhaps for the very reason that the rest of it did.As Prentice's Dad tells him:
"The thing is that because the real stories just happen, they don't always tell you very much.Sometimes they do, but usually they're too...messy." (The ellipsis is Banks'.)
This novel is such a story.
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