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pondělí 16. ledna 2012

Iain Banks: The Crow Road (Vraní ulice)

   I chose this book mostly because it usually ranks quite well (and for some time probably will) in lists of the best opening lines of novels. It’s quite easy to believe considering the first sentence is: It was the day my grandmother exploded. Also, Awaris seems to adore this author which is usually a good sign (if you want to read her review, I warn you it reveals more or less all major points of the story).
   The story begins with death (quite obviously) and death tends to stick on all protagonists for the whole book. Two main narrators are Prentice and his father Kenneth but there are more. There are also few bits of Prentice’s uncle Rory’s stories. It’s kind of a family chronicles of the McHoans, the Urvilles and the Watts. Relations between tha characters are quite complicated but on the other hand, I like making family trees when reading a book (I have a sheet with War and Peace characters somewhere…at least from the part I read. And of the Buendías family from One Hundred Years of Solitude. It was few years later I found out that you are actually supposed to confuse the characters…whatever).
   In the beginning of the story, Prentice and Kenneth don’t speak to each other after having argued about religion – Kenneth being a devout atheist and Prentice having some feelings that this whole world is kind of unjust and that there must be some hidden logic in it, something bigger that knows things are just as they should be and that all of this happens for a good reason. Considering Prentice’s uncle Rory has been missing for some ten years by that time and one of his best friends has just died in a pretty awful accident, it is quite understandable. As you might have guessed, one of the points of the book is that Prentice and his father are basically the same (stubborn assholes…at least sometimes).
   Another plot line is Prentice’s research on what happened to his missing uncle Rory who left one day and no one has ever seen him again. Rory was a traveller, he wrote some books about his travels to India and other parts of the world but always felt as a failure. Even more when Kenneth published book of stories he used to tell to his children and kids from the neighbourhood. This book affected Prentice too because he feels that his father’s stories were a private thing and that he spoiled it somehow. Which only shows that Prentice is in awkward teenage self-centred phase (On the other hand, I get him. My father once wrote in an article that my sister and me are crazy about Pokémons and we speak about nothing else and play with the cards all the time. Which a) was not true, we watched it sometimes but weren’t crazy about it and b) we were actually forbidden to collect the damn cards. Anyway…how dared he?).
    Prentice is pretty cool character, really cynical and funny, but sometimes rather full of himself and sometimes plainly obnoxious. Well, that’s how people are, I guess. Structure of the book is quite complicated as the narration shifts not only between the two major characters but also jumps into different moments in past. Quite often different parts of the story are somehow connected, for example the character thinks about some old story or mentions some fact and the following part comes back to it and gives some more insight. There is almost unsupportable number of characters and it takes time to remember who is who. The book is also full of suspension, sometimes it takes rather long before you are really sure who is the narrator in the moment or when the event being that is being described took place; sometimes you get some information but must wait pages and pages before it gets properly explained. You should be also prepared for a huge load of sarcasm, cynicism and black humour.
   If there is something I kind of didn’t like, it was the beginning and the ending. Or at least that the book starts with a funeral and ends with some weird kind of atheist baptism. Was that really necessary? Well…it probably was considering the constant presence of death, what better ending could there be? But still, it’s the kind of symbolism I could live without.
    In all other (numerous) aspects, I think it is an amazing book. It’s funny and dark in the same time, the storytelling is amazing and it makes you…yes, I going to say that…it makes you think.
   Oh, and the name of the book is from the Scottish saying to be away the crow road which means to die. And there is also a street called the Crow Road in the book.


2 komentářů:

bookdout řekl(a)...

A fascinating review - thank you for sharing it
Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Parrish Lantern řekl(a)...

loved this book, although it almost caused my wife & I a problem as we went to a funeral at a crematorium not long after reading it in which we had to restrain our humour.