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The Crow Road (1992)

by Iain Banks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,045583,821 (4.01)1 / 260
From its bravura opening onwards, THE CROW ROAD is justly regarded as an outstanding contemporary novel. '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.' Prentice McHoan has returned to the bosom of his complex but enduring Scottish family. Full of questions about the McHoan past, present and future, he is also deeply preoccupied: mainly with death, sex, drink, God and illegal substances...… (more)
  1. 10
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (Anonymous user)
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» See also 260 mentions

English (55)  Dutch (2)  Danish (1)  All languages (58)
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
I found The Crow Road by Iain Banks a very enjoyable read. The author skilfully mixes multi-generational family drama with a mystery that threads throughout the book. Prentice McHoan is the young man who relays the story. He is in his early twenties, a student at university in Glasgow, who loves to party. The memorable opening of the book finds Prentice at his family home in Gallanach for the funeral of his grandmother, but he finds himself thinking about his Uncle Rory, a travel writer who disappeared eight years earlier, many in the family believe that Rory has died, calling it “away on the Crow Road”.

From here the book jumps around between the generations of three families, the McHoans, the Urvills and the Watts. These families have been entwined by both friendships, careers and marriages through the years and as we learn of the past and the present we are introduced to some interesting characters that the author has developed with sly humor and intelligence. We learn to care about them through the wildly funny or, at times, deeply tragic incidences that have occurred through the years.

The Crow Road is a coming-of-age, mystery combination whose setting in Scotland brings the story to life. I was a little confused at the beginning of the book when the author jumped between times and characters, but the individual voices were so well developed that I soon felt comfortable with this format. The book evoked feelings of warmth, sadness, and humor and this, along with some fascinating plot twists made The Crow Road a memorable read. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Mar 1, 2022 |
He's away the Crow Road. ( )
  jaydenmccomiskie | Sep 27, 2021 |
I love how this book is constructed, it's like a Scottish version of a John Irving novel. Definitely coming back for more Ian Banks books in 2018! ( )
  Enno23 | Aug 15, 2021 |
"People can be teachers and idiots; they can be philosophers and idiots; they can be politicians and idiots;.......a genius can be an idiot. The world is largely run for and by idiots."

'Crow Road' opens with a funeral with a quite memorable first paragraph:

“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.”

Prentice McHoan, the main narrator, is the middle son of a uniquely dysfunctional family who is estranged from his avowedly atheist father because he simply cannot accept the concept that death is simply the end of the road. He spends a lot of time contemplating “the crow road,” a Scottish expression for death, the possibility of an afterlife, and the fate of his Uncle Rory, who disappeared eight years earlier.

Most of the story takes place in the present, 1991, but also moves back and forth in time (often without any hint from the author about the transition). Prentice hails from the imaginary village of Gallanach in Argyll, is studying History at a Glasgow university and Britain is about to enter the First Gulf War.

After the first 400 or so pages the novel suddenly becomes a murder mystery, although we cannot be sure whether there ever was in fact a murder.

There is a good deal of humour, some excellent character development, a large amount of whiskey drinking (the drug of choice) along with a liberal sprinkling of historical/cultural references that help to set the book in a certain time and place. However, Scotland with its fog-shrouded countryside, ancient burial sites, henges and castles becomes a character in its own right.

Banks is a clever writer who has become one of my authors of choice of late. Once again I thoroughly enjoyed his writing style with it's subtle wit but whilst I enjoyed the elements that revolved around family relationships, which I felt that he set up beautifully, I found the murder/mystery element a bit of a let down. Personally I felt it as if Banks had no idea quite how to tie up the loose ends that he had spun. I also wanted to scream at Prentice to open his eyes, I just couldn't believe that he was so blind to what was right in front of his eyes even if he does finally get the girl.

An enjoyable but flawed piece of escapism. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Aug 14, 2021 |
I certainly didn't dislike this, but I would have liked it a lot more if it hadn't been so long and meandery and had been more linear. 500 pages? Really? One downside of reading eBooks is that you might not realize a book's heft when you start it. 3 1/2 ( )
  MuggleBorn930 | Jul 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain Banksprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brown, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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From its bravura opening onwards, THE CROW ROAD is justly regarded as an outstanding contemporary novel. '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.' Prentice McHoan has returned to the bosom of his complex but enduring Scottish family. Full of questions about the McHoan past, present and future, he is also deeply preoccupied: mainly with death, sex, drink, God and illegal substances...

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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.

(julienne_preacher)

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