the wasp factory (book review)

Following Ian Banks’ death two months ago, I decided to buy his first published novel, The Wasp Factory. After reading it, I feel sorry for not having read this book earlier, like when it appeared in 1984!, as I definitely consider The Wasp Factory a masterpiece, a standalone novel that establishes Ian Banks’s stand as a great writer (and which understandably launched Banks’ carrier).

“I killed little Esmerelda because I felt I owed it to myself and to the world in general. I had, after all, accounted for two male children and thus done womankind something of a statistical favour.” 

The book tells a story that stands at the boundary of the fantastic, centred on Frank, a character that lives in a boy’s dream of weapons and secret ceremonies and auguries, alone with his dysfunctional father. It is actually never clear how much of the story is imaginary (imagined by Frank) and how much is real, from the murders of three siblings (!) to the attack of the giant rabbit to the role of the father. While Frank is apparently in his late teens, going to the pub and getting drunk, his mind seems stuck at a pre-teen stage as he worries about his catapult and carries around a bag of (animal) skulls for holding rituals and ceremonies. In many respects, The Wasp Factory reminded me of Lord of the Flies, with the same streaks of amoral cruelty and the opening on how children’s minds (could) operate when left to their own device (which is the case in the novel). Not only wasps evoke flies (!), but flies also play a major role in the novel (no more spoiler!). Verging on the Gothic, The Wasp Factory has however an additional humorous touch, from the many devices imagined by Banks to kill characters and animals to the absurd phone conversations with the equally mad brother Eric (who earlier set to burn local dogs…). Given the completely unexpected ending of the book, The Wasp Factory certainly requires a second reading to uncover all the clues that should (could?) have warned me about the conclusion. Brilliant!

2 Responses to “the wasp factory (book review)”

  1. […] * Ilustração do post via xi’an’s. […]

  2. Philip Shiell Says:

    Welcome to the club!
    This books falls into my short-list for fantastic books, which includes: “Fight Club”, “Tideland”, “To Kill A Mockingbird,”
    Check out my blog, I wrote about how I found out about T.W.F. back in the 80s.
    Now all you have to do is read all of them…

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