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The Crow Road

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  18,779 ratings  ·  727 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, pre
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Paperback, 501 pages
Published 1993 by Abacus (first published 1992)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  18,779 ratings  ·  727 reviews


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Paromjit
This is a re-read for me, I first read this a long time ago but I loved returning to it. I admit to hugely adoring the author and his wide body of work, including the sci-fi. Iain Banks has a imaginative and distinctive storytelling approach, offbeat characters and unusual, curious scenarios that cannot fail to capture a reader's interest. The icing on the cake is the wit and humour pervading this novel of loss and death. There is a strong sense of the Scottish location in the tale of Prentice M ...more
Megan Baxter
Sep 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement.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
David
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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,
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Nandakishore Varma
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
It was the day my grandmother exploded.
When you start a book with this sentence, you have definitely got the reader hooked - and you will keep her with you throughout, provided you can keep the momentum.

Iain Banks pulls it off smoothly.

This is the tale of the McHoan clan of Gallanch: a gifted, eccentric and somehow cursed Scottish family, told mostly through the eyes of young Prentice McHoan. As the novel begins, we see him going through the angst of a young man at the beginnin
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Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014

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
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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/>The
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Gary
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story is told mainly by Prentice McHoan who having returned to Scotland is reunited with his very different and complex family. Prentice tells tales of the family past, present and future all the time being preoccupied with: mainly death, sex, drink, God and illegal substances.
This is an entertaining read and full of humorous stories.
I would like to thank Net Galley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for supplying a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Paltia
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Moving back and forth through time occasionally laying bare the souls of some characters. For me, it was all about Prentice sorting through his personal strategies to life. He likes to think of himself as an individual who stands on principles, shakey though they may sometimes be. If only his concepts of love and jealousy didn’t get in his way. Egotistical and witty, a kind of hero in the making - a spying voyeur hidden in the shadows, sometimes in rare moments slipping into silence. After inges ...more
Louise Wilson
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This is the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Crow Road.

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 reflected that it was always death that brought me back to Gallanach.

The Crow Road is the first book I have read by the author, Iain Banks. The story is told mostly by the protagonist Prentice McHoan. I could not make my mind up if this book was a family drama or a murder mystery.
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Brad
Apr 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, scottish-lit
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"
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Mikela
Apr 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sunny
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1315-read, epub
Another surprising 4 star rating. It happens to me every time I read an Iain Banks story. I spend the first three-quarters of the book threatening to abandon the whole affair, and then BAM I'm unable to put it down for the last 150-ish pages.

Also, I need to learn Morse code.
Angela
Nov 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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 himself in ...more
Bill
Jul 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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 Walki
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Emilia Barnes
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's kind of hard to describe this novel, and to give it a review: so much happens, and so little is definable by the traditional standards by which we measure books. I mean, was it enjoyable? Yes. Was it well written? Yes. Was it un-put-down-able? For me, especially by the end, yes. But while all this is true, it isn't why I liked it. Or not the only reason. Behind the funny antics of three interesting families in Scotland, lies a mystery. But tying it all together is a very thought-provoking, ...more
Charlotte
Jul 30, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
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
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modern-fiction
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-defeating,
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Kevin
Aug 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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 anecd
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Shruti Buddhavarapu
Feb 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aai-own
The best thing to have come out of my quitting Facebook is unarguably the rekindling of my love affair with reading. I don't know if I'm the only creep who follows snarky, funny and poignant reviews by absolute strangers (who mostly wouldn't know I'm following their reviews) and then religiously track down their favourite books, or be tempted into reading a book they've reviewed - books I'm sure I would never have even heard of in my own life, had it not been for Goodreads and the people I follo ...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!
David
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Probably my favourite book, and one I return to again and again and find something new. Evocative and funny and with one of literature's best narrators in Prentice.
JK
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
On the first page of The Crow Road, Banks delivers one of the best opening lines I’ve ever experienced: '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.'

And Banks just doesn’t seem to stop with his somber yet somehow hilarious prose, drawing us deeply into the McHoan family, and allowing us to explore their histories, thei
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Jackie
Jun 01, 2011 rated it did not like it
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,
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Angus McKeogh
May 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
So this book was recommended to me more than a decade ago along with The Wasp Factory. I initially read The Wasp Factory right out of the gate and found it less than impressive. So I put this one off. I dove into it a few years back and couldn’t get past 100 pages. This time I was determined to finish it. I restarted and plodded on. And I realize I’m in the minority in the ratings for this book, but I continued on, trying to capture the hubbub I’d heard about this book. But all I got from it was ...more
Gregor Michael
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
notgettingenough
Aug 13, 2010 rated it liked it

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 divi
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Tyler
May 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: stopped-reading
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
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Andrew Smith
May 09, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-finished
I'm a fan of IB's and have enjoyed some of his books enormously. Dead Air was singularly one of the best reads I've ever had; a couple others would make the top twenty. But I didn't like this. I couldn't finish this. some say it's his seminal work, the top of his game. I don't think so. Maybe I found it dated. Certainly the Scottishness of it got to me. I found it hard going... and going nowhere. Maybe I should have stuck with it longer? I don't think so - a lucky escape me thinks.
Velvetink
Oct 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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!)
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3,948 followers
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
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“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.” 60 likes
“It was the day my grandmother exploded.” 47 likes
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