The Crow Road: Book summary and reviews of The Crow Road by Iain Banks

The Crow Road

by Iain Banks

The Crow Road
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2008
    500 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

"It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach's Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach."

So begins Iain Banks' The Crow Road, the tale of Prentice McHoan and his complex but enduring Scottish family. Prentice, preoccupied with thoughts of sex, death, booze, drugs, and God, has returned to his home village of Gallanach full of questions about the McHoan past, present, and future.

When his beloved Uncle Rory disappears, Prentice becomes obsessed with the papers Rory left behind — the notes and sketches for a book called The Crow Road. With the help of an old friend, Prentice sets out to solve the mystery of his uncle’s disappearance, inadvertently confronting the McHoans’ long association with tragedy — an association that includes his sister’s fatal car crash and his father’s dramatic death by lightning.

The Crow Road is a coming-of-age story as only Iain Banks could write — an arresting combination of dark humor, menace, and thought-provoking meditations on the nature of love, mortality, and identity.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Riveting ... exhilarating ... its pace, development, intensity and, above all, its hip and sexy humour never allow it to flag. With The Crow Road, Banks reinforces his credentials as one of the most able, energetic and stimulating writers we have in the UK." - Time Out.

"Beginning with a bang and ending with an exclamation mark ... the enfant explosif of the Brit pack." - Scotland on Sunday.

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Reader Reviews

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Rhonda

The Crow Road
The book, Crow Road was the first book that I have read by author Iain Banks. After I figured out what the author was doing with the shifting in and out of generations, I really was able to enjoy piecing together information about the story. This generational shifting was successful only because the author was so good at breathing life into his characters. I think some of the humor of the book was lost on me because I am simply not up on British vocabulary, with words such as bridies and Haggisburgers. Would I recommend this to a friend? You bet I would. I thought it was excellent writing and glad that his thread of mystery did not end up consuming the more important issues such as family (it is nice to know that Scotland is about as dysfunctional as the rest of us), religion, and the meaning of life.

Jerry

The Crow Road
This book is a coming-of-age novel. The main character and narrator of much of the book is a college student possibly in his early twenties undergoing a difficult transition to adulthood. Members of three generations of his family also play significant roles in the book.

I enjoyed the book. Some parts of it are hilarious and others are tragic. The writing is excellent and the characters are very real. I recommend a reader take his/her time to read it, just like sipping a fine wine.

I was confused in the beginning as the author abruptly shifted backward and forward in time to other characters in a different generation. I adjusted to this after about 50 pages. Since the book was a British edition, there were Scottish words I did not understand so I spent some time in the dictionary to understand some of the words. I assume much of this will be translated in the U.S. edition. Similarly, since I have never been to southern Scotland, I studied my world atlas so I could locate where the towns in the story were located.

I will read other books by this author since it was a pleasure to read this book.

William

The Crow Road
A wonderful story filled with characters the reader can care about.
Wildly funny at times, tragic and serious at others, this book deserves a second reading. I have read many books over the last year. This one has been the most enjoyable.

Maggie

Absorbing read
This is my first Iain Banks book and I thoroughly enjoyed the attention to characters - major, minor and fleetingly glimpsed. Essentially a growing up, multigenerational, mystery hybrid set in a real-feeling Scotland, the plot remains a means to an end - that of giving the reader time to pass in the company of a well drawn, lifelike and idiosyncratic fictional community.

Mary Jo

The Crow Road
"It was the day my grandmother exploded." Now I ask you. With a beginning sentence like that and when the author is Iain Banks you know you have a winner! The Crow Road is the multigenerational story of a Scots family - I know the breed. As with all
good stories The Crow Road gives us a look into lives not our own and makes them seem almost familiar. This familiarity , however, breeds not contempt, but a feeling of warmth, of humor sadness - of a good story very well told. Everyone feels real. No situations seem strained. I want to re-read this book and look forward to many others.
The Crow Road has my highest rating!

Jill

Complicated, compelling and thoroughly fantastic!
Iain Banks’ The Crow Road, is pure enjoyment. This compelling and complicated novel starts with a bang (quite literally) as 20-something Prentice McHoan returns to his Scottish hometown to attend the funeral of his grandmother--who explodes at the crematory in the novel’s first line. To say that the remaining 500 pages of Banks’ offering are a fun and tricky narrative of a young man coming to grips with death, family and the importance of being aware of who and what is most important to you would sadly water down a fantastic literary gift.

In McHoan, Banks has created a faulted, sometimes frivolous and always wildly entertaining character who introduces us to his merry band of sometimes semi-psycho friends and family as he delves into a family mystery. This is a book best read alone unless you want to spend a lot of time explaining to others why you are often laughing out loud--but it begs for a book club to share it with!

...9 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Iain Banks Author Biography

Iain (Menzies) Banks was born in Fife in 1954, and was educated at Stirling University, where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology.

He came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984.

His first science fiction novel, Consider Phlebas, was published in 1987. He continued to write both mainstream fiction (as Iain Banks) and science fiction (as Iain M. Banks).

He was acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative and exciting writers of his generation: The Guardian called him "the standard by which the rest of SF is judged". William Gibson, the New York Times-bestselling author of Spook Country described Banks as a "phenomenon".

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