I’ve had this book out for ages and have no idea why it’s taken me so long to get around to reading it – especially because I’ve really enjoyed all the other Iain Banks books I’ve read so far and happily I do still have one left after this. I think Iain Banks writes the way I’d like to write if I were an author: his characters are both engaging and intriguing (even if it’s in a horrifying way like Frank in the Wasp Factory) as are the plots; and the narratives are accessible and facilitate my wanting to read it all as quickly as possible once the book gets going (there’s nothing worse than a book with a goodish plot but which is so awkward to read that I end up skimming pages or realising I haven’t actually digested what’s been happening – “easy to read” sounds like an insult but really shouldn’t be taken as such).
The Crow Road could maybe be deemed the most “ordinary” of the Iain Banks books that I’ve read so far on the list and follows the unfortunate Prentice McHoan (unfortunate in an awkward teenage kind of way) and his family, many of whom we see blighted by more serious misfortunes (the plot contains the deaths or discovery of the deaths of a number of close family members). While the Player of Games and the Wasp Factory are (hopefully in the case of the latter) too detached from reality to be able to identify with on a personal level, and Dead Air slightly too outlandish, the Crow Road contains anecdotes and incidents that, if taken in isolation, could easily have happened to someone you know – Prentice drunkenly and vocally confessing his love for his brother’s girlfriend, sleeping with a family friend who then takes up with his flatmate (leading to his eviction to the sofa), falling out with his dad and resorting to (unsuccessfully) shoplifting to try and scrape together some money… along with more unusual scenes – like the opening where the local doctor rushes to the funeral of Prentice’s Grandma to warn them – too late – that she still has her pacemaker (causing an explosion in the crematorium) and giving himself a heart attack in the process.
Once I finally started this book I couldn’t put it down – Iain Banks has to be one of my favourite modern (or otherwise) authors. I’m now torn as to whether to save Complicity for a while – like I have with Ernst Hemmingway and William Faulkner (although the latter not so much by choice as it’s proving hard to track down his other two books I haven’t read on the list) or hunt it out and read it straight away like I did when I discovered Pat Barker.