(as always - no spoilers in my writeups :)

The Crow Road is a novel written by Iain Banks in 1992, first published in 1993. It was later made into a television series.

The novel has a lot in common with a clan saga from the old norse times (I should know, i've read a few - ugh) - about the Scottish McHoan, Urvill and Watt families.

The whole story, quite significantly, kicks off at a funeral - one of a series of funerals in the book. The title - "the crow road", we learn, is from an expression meaning that somebody has died, or "gone down the crow road".

SharQ's opinion of the novel

The Crow Road is a fascinating book in many ways. It is the second Banks book I have read - I read Banks' debut novel, The Wasp Factory a few weeks ago. I was shocked and horrified (but also intrigued) by the distinct difference in style between the two books.

Whereas The Wasp Factory is a horror-thriller with a "trashy" feel to it (although the trademark, copyright, patented Iain Banks twist saves The Wasp Factory from being your average trash novel), the Crow Road is completely different.

It took me a good 100 pages to get the hang of the style Banks uses in this book - I am not sure if this is because I am particularly daft, because I was expecting something else, or because it is supposed to be like that - but it has been a while since I have read books that were truly non-linear. This book - although it has complex and intricate developments in storyline throughout - is very non-linear.

Prentice McHoan - the narrator in this story - is basically telling the story of his life over a non-defined period of time. The whole story is narrated in past tense, but some of the sections are more past that others. Spread troughout the novel, with only sporadic references to what time perspective the different anecdotes have in relation to each other, Banks takes the reader on a frequently frustrating ride. Specifically, when the anecdotes are at their climax, the silly little asterisk1 warns you that there is another jump in time, and you have to plough through another 25 pages of other anecdotes (which, in turn, will keep you on edge), before continuing the story at the previous climax.

1) Be sure to watch out for the * marks. Every now and then I had to go back and re-read several pages because the story line stopped making sense, only to discover I had overlooked the little * signifying that something happens to the narrative

It might be worth noting that Prentice doesn't have the entire narrative either - every now and then an undefined omniscent narrator steps in and tells you sections of the story that Prentice finds out about later - strange, but it works really well.

In a very clever way, Iain Banks has managed to write book with several parallel story lines about one persons' life (and the people who - either directly or indirectly - affect him)

Granted - The Crow Road is not The Wasp Factory, and the "twist" in the plot is not all that unpredictable. However, the sheer readability and literary value of the book is definitely significantly higher in The Crow Road then many of the other books I have read the last few years.

Highly recommended!