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The Crow Road Paperback – January 1, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This novel was originally published in the UK in 1992 and was the basis for a popular BBC series. Banks himself has said the novel is “about Death, Sex, Faith, cars, Scotland, and drink.” What he doesn’t say is that it is also darkly funny as it follows ne’er-do-well Glasgow student Prentice McHoan’s struggle to come to terms with his family, his beliefs, and his burning, unrequited love for beautiful Verity Walker. From its startling opening sentence (“It was the day my grandmother exploded”) to its bittersweet conclusion 500 pages later (“I raised my arms to the open sky, and said, ‘Ha!’”), Banks revels in techniques ranging from saucy dialogue to hilarious first-person narration to intense descriptions of class, place, and religion. The Scots dialect and sudden shifts in time and point of view may, at first, be confusing, but readers who persevere will be richly rewarded. A deeply felt portrait of a young man who, in between rounds of pints and an illegal substance or three, learns to face up to the darkness of life and love. --Joanne Wilkinson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 501 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (UK) (January 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349103232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349103235
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,709,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Michael Battaglia on April 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
While I won't go so far as calling this his masterpiece (mostly because he's still fairly young and his real masterpiece is still lurking within him somewhere) this is probably his most consistently enjoyable and amazing book and the best one to thrust upon family and friends saying, "See? See? He is a genius." All of Banks' novels (yes, even Canal Dreams) have something to offer the reader, but previous (and future) novels all were quirky in one way or another and while his writing and plotting was so good it didn't matter, sometimes it felt like the oddness was masking what he really wanted to say. Not so in this book. He focuses on the people of Scotland, specifically the McHoan family and peripherally the Watt and Urvill families, all with different social and financial backgrounds, all with family members as different as the people you know. His characterizations are amazing, about a third of the book is told in a third person perspective while the rest is told by middle son Prentice . . . yet every character feels absolutely real, even the people who only show up for a few pages. All have different ideals and beliefs and ways of living and the fun is watching all that clash. The first third of the book might turn some folks off at first as Banks takes his time setting the background, shifting backwards and forwards in time and showing the main two generations of the family at different stages on their lives. Once you get used to it, it's not that difficult to figure out who is what and what period of time you're looking at, and he does a brilliant job at making the sections echo and inform each other, so even though they're out of sequence they feel like they're in sequence.Read more ›
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John Jackson on September 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
I have only read two Banks novels. The Wasp Factory was pretty unimpressive. Very dark and twisted (which I enjoy), but the story was a bit weak and there was really nobody to root for.

The Crow Road, on the other hand, was a truly superb novel. Beautifully written. Dark and funny, great setting, with very interesting characters. The setup may feel a bit tedious but once the action starts it becomes a real page turner. For people who haven't read Banks, this book has similiar feel to Ian McEwan's "Atonement", and Donna Tartt's "Secret History." (Both FANTASTIC novels). And I would put this novel in their league without hesitation. After the disapointment of Wasp Factory, Banks has shown his true colors with the Crow Road. Read this book!!

Warning!!! Spoiler here!!! Stop if you get "spoiled" easily!!!

There is even a sub-plot about the main character's relationship with a friend/love interest, that in many other books could have ended up being very "sappy" and ruining the edgy-ness of the tale. But Banks brings it forth with surprising subtlety and it totally works with the rest of the story.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2000
Format: Audio Cassette
I really enjoyed this offering from Iain Banks. The only other book I had read of his was The Wasp Factory and you could not get two more contrasting books if you tried. This impressed me even more that Mr Banks was capable of mastering two such diffeent genres with apparent ease.
Where The Wasp Factory was horrifying in places this book was heartwarming. I felt the human relationships between these interwoven Scottish families were so absorbing the characters almost leapt off the page. At first I found the broken narrative a bit hard to follow, I even had to reread the first few chapters to fully clarify exactly who was who. Once done however I had no problems as we jumped generations from one paragraph to the next.
The central story of Prentice and his struggles with his father, his religious beliefs, the love of his life and his family history was wonderful. The thing I enjoyed the most about Mr Banks' writing style was the dialogue, it was packed full of witticisms and often hilarious scenes, as well as endearing moments.
The plot of the missing Uncle Rory did at times venture more towards Mr Banks' horror style but only as it applies to hidden family secrets and guilt that can manifest itself into horrendous acts against those we love.
If you want a story of family, friends, betrayal, passion, love and humanity with just a touch of mystery thrown in, then the Crow Road will deliver every time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Myers VINE VOICE on April 18, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm afraid I can't join in the profusion of plaudits of The Crow Road as a literary work, but nor can I dismiss it as being "boring" or "too long" as other readers have. Yes, the book is indeed witty, and I truly don't understand the problems with "Scottish dialect" that other reviewers seem gratuitously to throw into their reviews. One thing that actually kept puzzling me was that there truly wasn't much Scottish dialect or too much British dialect for that matter to speak of herein. The idiom of much of the writing is, in fact, American - perhaps having to do with the fact that Banks spent several years in America before penning this book.

So, what am I to say here? First off, a great many people die unexpectedly, or not so unexpectedly, depending on how one interprets things - Banks leaves this question, delightfully, open-ended. But if you don't fancy pondering your eventual demise, this book is not for you. But what really kept me going was my gradual identification with Prentice Mchoan and his eventual love interest, "Ash" or Ashley. I started to realise, and it began growing on me, that Prentice was coming of age at the same time that I did, springing from the same upper-middle class background, listening to the same music (Morrissey, anyone?), drinking about as much (quite a lot!), and having the same sort of friendships and relations with women that I did, the only difference was that he was Scottish, whilst I was English. It dawned upon me somewhere near the end that this book was a sort of historical artifact of a sensitive, intellectual young man coming of age in Britain at the same time as I (though I didn't have quite so many funerals to attend).
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