Context: While I read this, a friend left for a few months and gave me his motorbike
The only other Ian Banks I’ve read was the utterly bizarre Wasp Factory. I really didn’t enjoy that very much at all. At the end of my review, I hoped that I would enjoy The Crow Road more. I did, but there was nothing hard in that.
This novel is of a much more mature writer. The Wasp Factory was his first novel and I think it showed. This novel has a lot more going on in it. There are at least two timelines running side by side, rather like two different reels on a sewing machine, weaving in and out of each other. Although it’s a clever device, I found it hard to keep track of who we were talking about for about the first quarter of the book. Once I got used to it, it worked. Not sure it was wholly necessary though.
Prentice is a young man with a close-knit family that holds a mystery: a long since gone uncle. Questions surround where Uncle Rory has in fact gone. When Prentice asks them, he receives curt rebuffs from his father and others. His suspicion grows and the novel then starts to focus more on Prentice’s quest to find both his uncle and himself.
Prentice is a likeable character, but he’s not an epic creation. The novel is occasionally amusing, but it’s not side-splittingly funny. Scotland is described nicely, but it’s not The Waves in terms of expressive prose. The cover of my book showed a black and white photo depicting nothing in particular. That pretty much sums up the novel… kind of grey and bland really.
Again, like McEwan (with the marked exception of On Chesil Beach), the ending is a bit of a let down. I saw it coming a mile off and it almost seemed tacked on rather than explored in detail.
One final thing that I found really uncomfortable was that the inside back cover of my paperback had a picture of Mr Banks. Like me, he’s not the handsomest of men. I found it most disconcerting to have him staring at me with increasing frequency as I made my way towards the last page. Urgh.