I haven’t updated in a while because a) I’ve had a truly ridiculous number of books on the go at once, even by my standards, and subsequently I’ve not been getting very far through any of them, and b) I’ve been busy being unemployed and miserable. I’ve since made a promise to myself though, that rather than being unemployed and miserable, I shall instead be unemployed but gaining a cultural education. So I’ve decided that I shall now spend my time (well, any time that’s not consumed by ridiculously long application forms) reading all the books and watching all the films, most likely lying in bed all day and probably consuming enormous amounts of rich tea biscuits along the way. So, expect more updates! (Although if anyone would like to break this gluttonous spell by offering me paid employment, I will of course be all ears).
So, onwards. My latest literary and now crumb-infested conquest has been The Crow Road, by Iain Banks. I’ve read a couple of his books before, and I’m always drawn to him because he’s a bit weird. (Anyone who’s read The Wasp Factory will know this is quite the understatement at times). Although The Crow Road isn’t weird as such, it certainly has its distinctive moments. The main reason that this book passed the thumbing-through-the-shelf test and made it home with me was due to the first line of the blurb, which simply states “It was the day my grandmother exploded.” Understandably I was intrigued, as I imagine everyone would be.
The Crow Road covers two generations of the McHoan family, and switches between the young adulthood of siblings Kenneth and Rory, and Kenneth’s son Prentice. It’s a story of family rivalry and disputes, a fantastical, made-up religion, death and heartbreak, and a whole lot of whiskey. At the heart of it all though is the mysterious disappearance of Rory, and Prentice’s attempts to discover what really happened to him. It’s pretty compelling stuff, not just for the mystery/piecing-together-the-jigsaw aspect, but because Prentice is so believable as a typical, awkward teenager, who at times is so drunkenly embarrassing that it made me squirm and want to give him a cuff round the head, but all in an ‘it’s for your own good, get your act together’ kind of way. Although having said that, the obstinacy and stubbornness of both Kenneth and Prentice refusing to give in to each other had me almost wishing they’d materialise in corporeal form so I could bang their heads together, not so much in an ‘it’s for your own good’ way, but more in a ‘you’re so bloody frustrating!’ kind of way. That’s why Prentice is such the typical adolescent, who would probably rather chew off his own foot than give in or admit he might have been wrong, and who could probably hold a grudge for long enough to forget what it was in the first place.
It also really made me want to go and explore Scotland, which is not somewhere I’ve felt particularly drawn to before. In fact, I couldn’t help but read the entire book in a really thick Scottish accent, all in my head of course. All in all, a good romp through the highlands, and quite sweet and touching in its own way.