Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Crow Road

The Crow Road

Iain Banks

There is a rather annoying tradition here, I’m not sure if other countries observe this or not but, in Scotland bookstores insist on separating books by Scottish authors into separate sections, Scottish History, Scottish Fiction etc. etc.
I’m not sure the point of this, is it to direct tourists to specific parts of the store? To imply Scottish writing is better than the rest of the world? Worse?
Whatever the reason, I find it annoying because, unless I’m spending a lot of time in a book shop, I’ll usually bypass these sections in favour of the general fiction section. It is for this reason that the work of Iain Banks has passed me by for so long.

My introduction came last year with The Wasp Factory which I found to be very enjoyable with a very surprising twist.
The Crow road is probably Bank’s most famous book, one that I’ve had recommended by numerous friends over the years.
Now that I’ve finally got around to reading I must say, I loved it…..mostly.

The book is a wonderful depiction of life in the small Scottish towns in the highlands. The book goes to great length in depicting the barren grey landscapes of Scotland, the rolling hills, wind battered trees.
There is a lot of grey in this book and the feeling of a driech rain soaked summers is beautifully communicated as is the perpetually waterlogged Glasgow.

Each of the characters is wonderfully realised and feel very well rounded though I found the dialogue off putting at times. Characters are prone to jumping from wonderfully realistic, minimalist sentences to full blown textbook worthy paragraphs seemingly at will. After a while you get used to this juxtaposition but it’s jarring at first.
I loved the plotting of this book, Prentice’s journeys to and fro between Glasgow and the fictional Gallanach, the slow drip of information surrounding his missing uncle Rory and the large body of research he left behind and honestly felt the book was heading for one of the most realistic conclusions I’d ever read when prentice quickly loses the folder containing Rory’s notes.

…look, I’m going to need to talk about the end of the book, there’s no getting around it. The book is celebrating it’s twentieth anniversary this year so I really should be able to talk freely about it, however if you don’t want to know how it ends then skip the next bit, you can come back in a paragraph or two.
…on you go…..

Anyway, I honestly thought the book would head to a non-ending, Rory’s folder lost and his fate forever a mystery. Imagine my surprise then when about a hundred and fifty pages from the end, the book suddenly becomes a murder mystery.
I found this drastic change in tone a little hard to swallow. Suddenly we’re talking about Prentice’s faux-uncle Fergus murdering both Rory and his own wife.  A book that had up to this point been so real suddenly warped into what felt more like an itv drama than the book I had just been reading and when Prentice found himself under attack by a balaclava clad intruder in the middle of the night I almost gave up.
To do this so close to the end felt rushed and the new development didn’t have enough time to play out.

….okay you can come back now.

So yeah. This is, for the most part a brilliant, wonderfully written book. The problems I have with it may simply be down to personal taste but they did dampen my enjoyment of the book.
That said, I would still recommend it though perhaps not with the fervour that others have recommended it to me.

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