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The Crow Road by Iain Banks

The Crow Road (original 1992; edition 1994)

by Iain Banks

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2,555372,358 (4.02)210
Title:The Crow Road
Authors:Iain Banks
Info:Abacus (1994), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:Scottish fiction, family saga

Work details

The Crow Road by Iain Banks (1992)

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    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (Anonymous user)

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» See also 210 mentions

English (35)  Dutch (2)  All (37)
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Engaging "Coming of Age" tale set in Scotland in the early 1990s.

A little hard to follow, as the narrative jumps back and forth between the protagonist's point of view and stories from his family's history going back before his birth. I could have used a handy chart of all the characters to keep them straight.

A little mystery, philosophy, and politics, with more than a little sex and death. All told with skillful writing which is at times hilarious. ( )
  JackMassa | Nov 23, 2016 |
From its attention grabbing first line to the love story coming together at the end, this is a perfect book.
My favourite part? The story Prentice's Dad tells him about the stone piles on top of the hills... ( )
  jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
233) The Crow Road Iain Banks
★★★ and a half

The Crow Road is the story of 2 generations of 3 families living in the Scottish countryside. The McHoans, the Urvills and the Watts.

Our first person narrator is Prentice McHoan the middle son of Kenneth McHoan. Prentice has fallen out with his father about religious beliefs and is also determined to solve the family mystery of what happened to his Uncle Rory who mysteriously disappeared when Prentice was 11.

The story switches from 1st to 3rd person narration and between past and present, the past sections relate to Prentices parents generation and his early childhood while the present sections relate to what is happening to him now.

At first I found it confusing keeping track of what time we were in and who was telling the story but as the book progressed and the characters developed it all fell into place.

This book had me smirking to myself at points and some very witty and amusing situations.
( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
The Crow Road starts off as a low-key family chronicle. It begins by quietly unfolding itself in alternating chapters, switching between timelines, when it follows the young student Prentice and his storytelling father Kenneth about fifteen years apart, as they negotiate the familial bonds and tensions that keep a large family and assorted in-laws tied together or driven apart. Banks slowly builds up tension and momentum, fills out his characters’ personalities to the point where they cannot but clash, and almost unnoticably his family-cum-coming-of-age-novel turns into a mystery that hurtles towards a signature climax that comes close to being over the top, but is carried off beautifully.

Banks mixes the tragic with the growing-up experiences; the contemplative quest for life’s answers and god with the comedic; and the ambitious mingling of genres with the low-key tone of a skilful author in control. The masterful telling of these stories as well as Banks’ love for his characters and the setting kept me interested, even in the parts dedicated mostly to character development, because I could tell he was going somewhere big, and I’d enjoy it more if I got to know the characters better.

The characters are likable or immature in precisely the right way: not as a way to trigger cheap reader involvement, but as relevant to the story and how it was told. The out-of-the-blue stretches with humour, the sudden events and plot twists, and even the creeping genre shift did not seem like cover-ups for a story out of the author’s control, but felt entirely natural: at all levels, the novel was kept shifting and moving, even at low speeds.

The more I think about it, the more I like this novel: it was well-plotted, well-executed, and told even better by an author who clearly knows his trade. ( )
  Petroglyph | Dec 22, 2014 |
This book is written in a very non-linear style which made it very difficult to comprehend what was going on at the beginning. Once I understood the rhythm of the narrative what developed was a very well written, interesting story of a family in Scotland. Banks did an excellent job with characterization, not only in defining them but making me really care what happened to them. This is a slower paced book that kept my interest to the end and actually left me wanting more. Highly recommend. ( )
  mlbelize | Jan 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain Banksprimary authorall editionscalculated
Partanen, AnuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Dorothy CaricoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Again, for Ann,

And with thanks to:

James Hale,

Mic Cheetham,

Andy Watson

and Steve Hatton
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It was the day my grandmother exploded.
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Book description
Prentice McHoan returns home to his complex but enduring Scottish family. Relations with his father are strained and the woman of his dreams is simply out of reach. He is also deeply preoccupied with death, sex, God, drink and illegal substances. But his greatest preoccupation is with Uncle Rory, a traveler and some-times magician, whose most successful act had been his own disappearance...

When Prentice McHoan, the irrepressible hero of Banks's wily novel whose loves include drink, cars, girls and history, returns from university in Glasgow to his family home in Gallanach for his grandmother's funeral, his thoughts turn to his uncle Rory, a travel writer who disappeared eight years earlier. When Prentice runs into Janice, an old girlfriend of Rory's, the two wonder together if Rory has gone away the Crow Road (Scottish for died), and Janice reveals that Rory gave her a folder of his poems and notes before he disappeared. Rory's writings are tantalizingly cryptic and turn out to include outlines for a novel-in-progress titled Crow Road. Fueled by his uncle's notes, his own curiosity and a good bit of brown liquor, Prentice sets off to find his uncle in an engaging narrative that admirably balances bawdy Scottish humor, crafty character development and some good old-fashioned mystery. Prentice finds his closure—for better or for worse—and things are tied up neatly (maybe too neatly) by the end. Readers unfamiliar with Banks's prodigious output have a great starting point here.
Haiku summary
Unsolved mystery
and issues with family.
Prentice comes of age.


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Prentice McHoan has returned to the bosom of his complex but enduring Scottish family. Relations with his father are strained, his brother is funnier and better-looking than he is, and the woman of his dreams is out of reach.

(summary from another edition)

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