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The Crow Road

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  10,484 ratings  ·  418 reviews
'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 fut...more
Paperback, 501 pages
Published 1993 by Abacus (first published 1992)
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Outlander by Diana GabaldonMacbeth by William ShakespeareThe Last Sunset by Bob AtkinsonThe Winter Sea by Susanna KearsleyDragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Books Set in Scotland
22nd out of 473 books — 350 voters
Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenThe Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienLolita by Vladimir NabokovRebecca by Daphne du MaurierFinn by Jon Clinch
Best Beginning of a Novel
21st out of 140 books — 163 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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David
Damn, this book was terrific! I don't know why I didn't stumble across it earlier, given it was published in 1992 and was adapted by the BBC as a miniseries in 1996 (oh wait .... the 90's were the years that got eaten by my "professional career"... the mindless TV years). Anyway, no matter.

"It was the day my grandmother exploded." Any author with the balls to have that as an opening sentence deserves to be given a chance, at least. Banks keeps up the brilliance for another 500 pages, drawing you...more
Algernon

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.

It's so easy to choose this famous opening line for starting a review of Crow Road, and therein lies the danger of focusing only on the sarcasm, the tongue-in-cheek, flippant running commentary provided by Prentice McHoan on the history of his family and on his own gr...more
Maciek
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.

The Crow Road is the first novel by Iain Banks that I've read, and it has one of the best and irresistible opening hooks ever - it quite literally begins with a bang (get it?). What other novel begins with the main character's dead grandmother exploding?

Iain Banks is a...more
Bill
Iain Banks. Every time I go through the process of selecting the next book to read, and one of his comes up, I wonder, hmmm...should I now? Or should I put this off until I'm ready; for a special time perhaps.

The thing is, Iain Banks is a very special writer. You need to be ready for him because his stories require a lot of focus and patience. This is what makes him great. Almost always, there is a payoff that makes all the wondering of where he's is going worthwhile.
Take Walking on Glass, for e...more
Brad
The Crow Road is not Iain Banks best book, but I understand why it is his most popular (even though I am sure it's the wrong Banks book on that list of 1001 books to read).

• It has the most catchy of openings: "It was the day my grandmother exploded." It's an opening that appears regularly in lists of "best opening lines" and rightly so; it's intriguing, messy and one of the best hooks I can remember reading.

• Apart from some characters in a couple of his lesser known "mainstream" novels, the Mc...more
Charlotte
If I could choose no stars I would have. I really cannot stand books that have characters I don't care about. No one in this mess of family / extended family / friends of family was remotely memorable. I could care less about their issues as well. I read this book because it's on the 1001 books list and I have never read anything by Iain Banks before - and I wasn't missing anything. The reviews for this book were great - so I was very disappointed in it's lack of eh - everything! Brilliant - not...more
Jessica
I can't say enough good things about Iain Banks's The Crow Road. My only question is, why didn't I hear of him and read his work sooner? He's brilliant. It's like Graham Swift and Irvine Welsh met to write a novel, and Swift's insight tempered Welsh's mania, but Welsh's hipness updated Swift's subject matter. The result is a brilliant novel - grim, gritty, but funny and somehow uplifting without being cheesy.

It shouldn't make me feel good to read it - it should be depressing as hell, self-defea...more
Mikela
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.
Kevin
The Crow Road struck a major nostalgic chord within myself; the books main narrator and protagonist, Prentice McHoan, is roughly my age and brings to life his youth during the 1980's and early 1990's, and as as well as narrating his tale, he evokes the history, the culture and politics of those years. As well as The Crow Road being essentially a murder/mystery, a different take on crime fiction in many ways, it contains the trial and tribulations of three generations of two related Scottish Fami...more
Jackie
There are two parts in this book which I really found beautifully written. The first is on page 25,

“These were the days of fond promise, when the world was very small and there was still magic in it. …… Then, every day was a week, each month a year. A season was a decade, and every year a life.”

The second was the incredible discussion on the meaning of life and death on page 484.

“Was Fergus Urvill anywhere still? Apart from the body – whatever was left of him physically, down there in that dark...more
Megan Baxter
I was enjoying the hell out of this book right up until, near the end, it decided without warning to become a murder mystery. That section felt so out of place with the rest of this meandering, detailed meditation on death and growing up.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Velvetink
1 of 25 books bought today for $10 (the lot).
Really looking forward to starting this one, but have to finish a few others first. (understatement!)
notgettingenough

And it is like this.




Suddenly tears spring from your eyes and and you are too surprised by them to be able to stop the small flood that follows. Not entirely timely since you are in your favourite coffee shop hereabouts waiting for a vegetable tagine.

* * * *

Prentice, you prat, how can you not see the bleeding obvious right in front of your nose? As I wait for my tagine, I’m wondering what those who like to divide writing up by quality where literature is ‘best’ call Banks? Not literature. Presum...more
Angela
Nov 07, 2009 Angela rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Angela by: Powell's Indiespensable
Shelves: indiespensable
There are many ways to write a merely good novel, but I've read few great ones--novels with truly compelling plots--that don't make their emotional impact by pummeling their main characters until their lives just can't seem to get any worse, and then somehow finding that bit left to destroy. The Crow Road does this masterfully. Halfway through the book, main character Prentice has watched his romantic interests thwarted by those who are supposed to be closest to him, painfully embarrassed himsel...more
Erica
The Crow Road by Iain Banks begins with the memorable line "It was the day my grandmother exploded." This line is, in fact, a good indication of the rest of the novel. This novel is full of similarly pithy one-liners and hooks (another good example being the start of chapter five: "Right, now this isn't as bad as it sounds, but...I was in bed with my Aunty Janice.") but unfortunately aside from amusing me with the occasional one-liner the book didn't do much for me.

At first, due to the vertigino...more
Stephanie "Jedigal"
Stayed up late to complete 100 pages yesterday, and read the last 50 pages this morning. :o)

This was so fabulous, a great human story. It takes us through the college years of Prentice McHoan, concentrating on how he experiences and relates to his family (immediate and extended), friends, romantic interests and also the world at large and the question of the existence of God. So clearly a bildungsroman, yet it doesn't have the feel I often associate with that type of work. Told anecdotally, and...more
Matthew Jones
A first foray into the world of Iain Banks for me and, whilst the story gripped and the language sparkled, by the end I was just a little disappointed. It seemed to me that the novel couldn't decide whether it was a family saga, a murder mystery or a tartan clad bildungsroman, and while all these elements were enjoyable and well written, they never quite gelled into a completely satisfying novel. I think I would have enjoyed hearing less from Prentice and more from Kenneth, exploding Granny McHo...more
Manny
description
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(Gratuitous cross-promotion)

I wrote this minimalist review as a protest against notgettingenough's intolerably wordy screeds. For example, look at her recent review of Jeremy Clarkson. I mean don't. Don't!
Zed
You know when you spend so long trundling along a runway that you start to wonder if you're going to taxi all the way from Manchester to Stockholm*, despite this presumably necessitating "boat-mode" upon reaching the North Sea? No? Then you're lucky enough not to know the safety features of "this" Boeing 737 off by heart, but if you read the first hundred pages of this book, you can experience the sensation that invariably accompanies members of "your" cabin crew (or little blonde animations, if...more
Emma Makes
When my fiancée Tom came to meet my family, it was at a barn party attended by my immediate family, all my extended family and quite a lot of our small town too.

Joining a large family is enough to make you want to have a family tree on hand at all times... just to work out who goes where and with whom. It was the best part of these recurring names, discoveries and victories in working out how a large family goes together that I loved about The Crow Road.

I loved this family – their lives felt rea...more
Tyler
I was disappointed by this book, and stopped reading after a bit under 200 pages.

My head was spinning at the constant back-and-forthocity of the flash{backs,forwards}. Maybe the author thought it was fun to make us figure out what time period we were in now, and who was the effective narrator at any point. I found it more taxing than fun.

I also feel like the author wants to be a bit Nabokov with his language. He peppers in fifty dollar words like susurration which is fun when I know what they me...more
Pamela
Beware reviews that declare the author is a "phenomenon" (William Gibson), or is an "enfant explosif" (Scotland on Sunday), or "the most imaginative novelist of his generation" (The Times). Or perhaps you just have to beware my reviews.

I doggedly stuck with this novel to the end. Perhaps because I paid full price for it (based on the above plaudits) and thought it might be worth it? Ho hum. Not very believable depiction of two generations of a not very interesting extended family and friends. Bu...more
Tim
The Wasp Factory was a book of raw brilliance. It spoke to me like no other book before - the paternal disconnect, the playful violence, a psychopathic anti-hero who, paradoxically, was easy to identify and empathise with. If not zeitgeist, then it felt like a book of its time - something that just needed to exist, even if Banks himself hadn't written it.

The Crow Road is a return to form. For me Banks lost his way a little after the Wasp Factory, as if trying to recapture the brilliance of the f...more
Perry Whitford
The Crow Road is both Scottish slang for death and an actual road in the run-down industrial heart of Glasgow. In this Bildungsroman from Iain Banks, it also refers to the name of a folder of disparate writings that young Prentice McHoan believes may hold the secret to the fate of his cousin Rory, who has been missing presumed dead for nearly a decade, riding off on his motorcycle one day and never being seen again, nor a trace of him found.
Prentice's first person coming-of-age story is just par...more
Dane
Oct 05, 2012 Dane rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: other
Ok, The Crow Road. Definitely an Iain Banks novel, and the opening sentences give you a very rough idea of what you're getting into. Seeing as the book description and half the reviews on here quote the start of the book, I may as well too:

'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.'

At first glance absurd, but...more
Begona Fernandez
Decided to pick up this book because it, according to the Guardian, is one of the 1000 books you have to read.

I normally don't like crime novels. They seem to concentrate too much, sometimes, in making their killers or their detectives/policemen too witty and their stories too complicated. Precisely, this book is at first glance, the opposite. The killer is not immensely clever but lucky. He gets away with it for so long because Fiona's death is assumed to be accident and Rory is assumed to be d...more
Kaph
Verdict: A well written, intricately composed tale of family, Scotland and murder which can’t quite seem to fire on all cylinders.

The Crow Road marks my second foray into Iain Banks. My first was The Wasp Factory and, I won’t lie, it took me a little while to recover from that. Horrible things happen (mainly to dogs) when you mix Scottish authors and Gothic literature. Shaken as I was though, I had to admit the excellence of The Wasp Factory as a piece of literature so I approached The Crow Road...more
Haje
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”.

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 Wa...more
Laura
Not the easiest of Iain Banks' novels to get in to (Whit and Dead Air are probably better starting places for his work), but worth it.

The "Crow Road" is both a physical place (a road in Glasgow) and a state of being, namely, dead (apparently there is an old Scots saying, "he's awa' up the Crow Road"). And one of the characters/narrators, Rory McHoan, lived on one and is presumed to be on the other. The mystery of what happened to Rory is in some ways the centerpiece of the book, as is the next G...more
Tracey
Picked this novel up from the library after reading a few of his science fiction works & seeing it listed as an SDMB recco in Iain Banks thread; Florita also gave 4 stars.

The first line: "It was the day my grandmother exploded." pretty well hooked me. (she was being cremated & they forgot to take out her pacemaker). I had a bit of difficulty with the shifting timeframes/ character POV's - the novel follows a family thru multiple generations and jumps back & forth on a chapter by chap...more
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Iain Banks / Iain...: The Crow Road 1 10 Aug 14, 2012 12:58AM  
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7628
This author also published science fiction under the pseudonym Iain M. Banks.

Banks's father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was once a professional ice skater. Iain Banks was educated at the University of Stirling where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. He moved to London and lived in the south of England until 1988 when he returned to Scotland, living in Edi...more
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The Wasp Factory Complicity The Bridge Whit Espedair Street

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“It was the day my grandmother exploded.” 32 likes
“People can be teachers and idiots; they can be philosophers and idiots; they can be politicians and idiots... in fact I think they have to be... a genius can be an idiot. The world is largely run for and by idiots; it is no great handicap in life and in certain areas is actually a distinct advantage and even a prerequisite for advancement.” 29 likes
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