Once upon a time, I read Iain Banks’ The Crow Road, and I still sometimes think about what a good book that was. Ever since then, I wanted to read another one of Banks’ books, and now I did.
The Wasp Factory is the story of Frank and his family, who live on a remote Scottish island. Frank has no birth certificate and lives in a weird co-dependent relationship with his father, who is eccentric in many ways, but loving. Frank’s brother was convicted due to violence against animals, but recently escaped and is trying to make his way back home. We get to know him through Frank’s memories and phone calls that only ever happen with Frank. To me, it remained unclear until the end of the book whether Frank’s brother really exists, and how much of the interactions with him is in Frank’s head.
Frank, living alone with his father, has developed (or has always had, who knows) a knack for violence and death, which he lives out in a plentitude of ways. He has already killed three people, which he sees as an accomplishment, and flourishes in being violent towards animals.
The Wasp Factory is really weird. That’s pretty much all I can say without giving away too much of the plot – it’s an interesting read though, and has a splendidly strange unreliable narrator. The ending is a fitting climax of the entire weirdness of the book – I can’t really say that I know what this book wants to tell me about life except that some people are horrible and strange and life is weird, but sometimes that’s just enough.
Title: The Wasp Factory Author: Iain Banks First Published: 1984