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3.83  ·  Rating details ·  6,954 ratings  ·  202 reviews
Isis Whit is no ordinary teenager. An innocent in the ways of the world, an ingenue when it comes to fashion, she does however rejoice in some neat healing powers, a way with animals and the exalted status of Elect of God of the Luskentyrian Sect. Part of the 1995 Scottish Book Fortnight promotion.
Hardcover, 455 pages
Published 1995 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,954 ratings  ·  202 reviews

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I'm a sucker for fictional religions, and Banks is brilliant at inventing them. Luskentyrianism is his best effort yet. If the thing you liked most in Cat's Cradle was Bokononism, you may well enjoy this book too. The charming young heroine, Isis, is the Elect of God, and terribly matter-of-fact about it; it's remarkable how quickly you get used to almost anything at all, and find it normal. (Someone's got to be the Elect of God. Why not me?) I particularly enjoyed the scene where she got all in ...more
Dec 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sonia Gomes
Mar 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Sonia by: Phill Chappel from London
'Whit' is one of the funniest books that I have ever read.
The founder of the cult Salvador is Scottish, who has been rescued by two Indian women. These ladies have a holy of hollies, much like a Communion wafer, which is something called 'slonjish', a hardened and brownish paste like substance. It is taboo to touch slonjish, or even to cast a look at it. As usual with such things in every religion nobody knows the reason why.
I thought about this slonjish, after all it did sound like Hindi, what
Aug 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I've ever misjudged a book so badly in my life - I had completely different expectations when I started off. I was expecting a raging tirade concerning the folly of religion, the blindness of the human race, the contradictions between cold hard logic and warm fuzzy faith. I couldn't have been more wrong.

There was definitely a level of satire here, a warm touch which I noticed is common to Scottish writers, and something which I definitely have a great appreciation for.

The story fo
The thing I have noticed in Iain Banks' contemporary non-culture novels is how quite different they all really are. Yes, Iain had a great style and a unique way of crafting a tale, usually showing us some great inconsistencies, hypocrisies and wrongness within our society, no doubt, but each tale deals with different things showing us more than anything what a quite unique and varied imagination he most certainly had. I have not read all of his books, I still have many left to read and I have re ...more
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion, fiction
I liken Iain Banks- along with all writers who may resemble him- to a student inspired to be recognized as a prolific writer. To fulfil his ambition, with dogged determination, he applies to a publishing company submitting all the samples of his works. The top banana is impressed by his latent talent, but turns him down because he finds Banks’ works subjective to plagiarism. Nevertheless, he will be given a chance to work for the company as a protégé, commissioned to write a story for a literary ...more
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a phenomenally good read. Based around an obscure religious sect in Stirlingshire, we follow the character Isis (Elect of God) on a journey through the Order's past, combined with a quest to find a lapsed member and return her to the fold. I quickly warmed to the character of Isis, a nineteen year-old with enviable courage and a somewhat unworldly but interesting moral compass. I was moved by her predicaments and dilemmas, and endeared to her by her way of dealing with them. The story c ...more
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ve decided that Iain Banks is my go-to easy, entertaining reading. I just find his style so readable and funny and clever. This book has a lot of flaws and it is not as insightful about religion/living in a cult as I was hoping, however it is a lot of fun and the main character is brilliant so I can forgive quite a lot.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Enjoyable enough, after a slow start, but not one of his best.
Sally Melia
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have read all of Iain Banks novels and I read Whit first of all when it was first published in 1986. I re-read it over the weekend to write this review.

Whit is a very whimsical story, and is a great escape. It is set in the lowlands of Scotland, this time close to Sterling where in an old mansion house, a christian sect led by Salvador Whit live out a peaceful communal idyll.

The story is about Isis Whit who is Salvador's granddaughter, who is set a mission to track down her cousin Morag who le
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
the best way to describe Whit is to create a new genre of books, the cult fairy tale. the lead character, a young woman of high morals and intelligence sets out on a quest to lead her sister back to the fold for a major cult celebration, known for its open sexuality. However our heroine is tested during the quest and challenged by political machinations, buried family secrets, even family betrayals.It is the outcome of these twists and turns that suggest the fairy tale. Throughout Banks writes w ...more
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Iain Banks does Breaking Amish...

Isis Whit, or The Blessed Very Reverend Gaia-Marie Isis Saraswati Minerva Mirza Whit of Luskentyre, Beloved Elect of God III, to give her her full name, is a happy, devoted and revered member of the Luskentyrian faith (an entirely made up religious cult in a remote-ish part of Scotland). Isis, as the Granddaughter of their Great Founder and a third generation Leapyearian (born on February 29th) is beloved and respected by the entire Community. So much so, that w
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the first Iain Banks book I have read (thank you, Paola, if you're reading this, for the recommendation) and I'm now keen to read more. I really enjoyed it and got quite swept away. The story is told from the point of view of Isis, a teenage girl - the Elect of God - who is a member of a Scottish cult. I was relieved by Banks' gentle sense of humour as there were times when I was seriously concerned for Isis. A proof of his craftsmanship. Just some miniscule things that stopped me awardi ...more
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it

I bought my copy of Iain Banks’ Whit at my local market for 25p, and I’m very glad I bought it.

As soon as I saw it I knew it was something special. I’ve worked at that market for around six years (SIX YEARS!) now and, until Whit, hadpurchased only one other item. I read the back and it didn’t really appeal to me:

‘A little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing. Innocent in the ways of the world, an ingenue when it comes to pop and fashion, the Elect of Go
Mike Franklin
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In Banks’ words: “[Whit is] a book about religion and culture written by a dedicated evangelical atheist — I thought I was very kind to them... Essentially, Isis makes the recognition that the value of the Luskentyrian cult is in their community values rather than their religious ones. She recognises that efficiency isn't everything, that people not profit are what matters.” And it’s true, he is kind to them, although mostly, I feel, because, as he says himself, the emphasis is on the community ...more
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mikko Saari
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've owned this book for ages, and finally got around reading it – I have a tendency to read English paperbacks when I'm traveling abroad, and very rarely otherwise; this book accompanied me to Amsterdam.

It's all about Isis, a Scottish teenager, who is a member of a weird religious cult. Not just a member, though – Isis is actually their Elect of God. She is tasked with a duty to journey to London to find an apostate cousin and to bring her back to the faith.

It's not an easy task, and while work
Sarah B.
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this as a straightforward adventure (instead of a satire, which was suggested on the back cover but always makes me think I should be hearing sarcasm in the entire text) helped me to enjoy this book once I got past the first few chapters. I liked the main character, Isis, in all her stubborn, naive, resilient, asexual charm. Having been too squeamish to make it through The Wasp Factory, I was somehow surprised to find Banks was so good at portraying a believable 18-year-old woman. I thou ...more
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A noirish detective story written from the perspective of a naive, 19-year-old cult member who sleuths her way through the squats, free parties, student digs, porn cinemas and care homes of early 90s Britain? Yes please! Luskentyrianism is a fantastically interesting (and as the creation of a hardcore atheist, weirdly appealing) fictional religion, the protagonist's lack of worldliness makes for great satire, and the book is stuffed with memorable, interesting characters. The plot is a real page ...more
Aug 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2009, religion
This book started out quite droll for me and I struggled to get into the book. By about halfway I knew where the book and the main character Isis was heading and I was constantly reminded of Animal Farm.
It was an enjoyable book and the first I have ever read of Iain Banks and I may read another of his but I am not sure.
The book was predictable for me, enjoyable and funny in parts but was just not on the mark.
Paul Macewan
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Just finished "Whit" by Iain Banks. What a fantastic book. The quality of the writing leapt out at me compared to recent audiobooks I have had.
It's funny, sinister and revealing all at the same time but well worth a read.
The subject matter was of interest anyway but it's a good commentary on cults/religions and the control involved. That doesn't sound all that exciting but, trust me, after the first few chapters it picks up!
Karen Coles
May 05, 2014 rated it liked it
This man’s writing is like a treat for me. It always seems so effortless, that I never think of the writer writing it, only of the story unfolding before me. This was witty, sometimes laugh out loud funny. The delightfully naive, and unwittingly brave and feisty female main character will stay with me for a long time. It was a fun read.
Nov 03, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: your-library
Banks tries hard to give his heroine a convincing voice but doesn't manage it, and the comic-book eccentricity of every single character is grating by the overdue end. But the book speaks eloquently about cults and religion in general, and there's a good quota of laughs tucked away there, too.
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I will treasure forever the image of Isis Whit, Elect of God, floating to Edinburgh in an inner-tube.
Kealan O'ver
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
A solid read from Banks. As per usual.
Stephenson Holt
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Whit (1995)

Banks' gift is to get into the head of his main character and be able to think and speak like that character. Sometimes you get the feeling that his books are born by him waking up one morning and thinking "Now that would be a difficult but interesting character to get to know." This is Banks in the mind of a girl who has been born into and brought up in a religious sect, being trained to,one day, be its leader. She is not that naive that she should believe that some of the sects bel
Dec 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk-novel
The Very Reverend Isis Whit takes it in her stride that she is the Elect of God and destined in inherit responsibility for guiding the Luskentyrian religious community in its path of righteousness. After all, she is the grand-daughter of His Holiness Salvador Whit, the Founder and OverSeer of the sect, and more importantly, was born on the most auspicious date of 29 February. She is also 19 years of age and is happy to presume that the mantle of leadership will not adorn her for some time yet, a ...more
Robert Ronsson
About two-thirds of the way through this book, densely packed with the customs and practices of the Luskentyrian sect and the guidance for it found in the Orthography, I found myself marvelling at the creative energy that must have been expended creating Whit's world. And at the same time I was perplexed because, especially when a book is about a cult-like community, you expect the allegory it is meant to convey to be explicit. I comforted myself with the belief that all would become clear by th ...more
Eva Mittermair
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm not quite sure how to phrase just how much I enjoyed this book. I think what I enjoyed the most, apart from the incredibly charming protagonist, was the construction of the sect Salvador built, because it's actually pretty nice. Their lifestyle is certainly appealing: simple, about honest work and community, refusing modern inventions except when they're necessary (you could totally imagine the Luskentyrians getting someone an ambulance in case of a severe illness or injury). It isn't demand ...more
Apr 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the first few Iain Banks books at the time but I didn't keep up with him long enough to read this one (I preferred his sci-fi anyway). Whit is enjoyable but definitely lesser compared to his first few novels, of which my favourite was probably Espedair Street. Despite it's elaborate creations, in particular the Luskentyrian religion/cult, the book proved ultimately to be routine and predictable, peppered with 2-dimentional characters. Its also had some surprising plot weaknesses I don't r ...more
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Iain Banks / Iain...: Whit 1 7 Aug 14, 2012 12:59AM  

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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

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“there is both fear and comfort to be drawn from devils--the fear speaks for itself, the comfort comes from being able to absolve oneself of responsibility for one's actions.” 25 likes
“Man must learn to stand and walk with his spirit rather than crawl with his technology before he allows that technology - which is the physical expression of his spiritual Shadow - to destroy him. God’s ultimate aim for Man is not known and not even knowable in our present state; we must become spiritually adult before we can even discover what God holds in store for us as a spiritual species; all previous ideas of Heaven (or Hell) or Second Comings or Judgment Days are childish attempts to come to terms with our own ignorance.” 23 likes
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