Saturday, September 15, 2007

It was like being at home!

'Crow Road' by Iain Banks is actually quite an old book, published in 1993. At Gatwick airport the shop had offers of 3 books for the price of two, and I needed a third book. Have a vague memory that this was made into a film or TV programme.

Of course it's not about the Crow Road in Glasgow which I used to drive along from time to time. It's set somewhere on the West Coast between Glasgow and Oban, and is about three families who are friends through having grown up together, though one is working class, one is posh and one is in between. The son of the in-between , Prentice, is the main narrator. The book covers the period from the childhood of Prentice's father, who dies near the end of the book. There is a dark secret....but it does not much read like a detective story - this only develops nearer the end.

What I liked about it? It was so evocative of Scotland and the period it covered (including the first Gulf War), with many references to real events, and the very sympathetic family's attitude to many of them. It beautifully describes moments on the west coast of Scotland, which you can only have there; the weather (hmm, yes), the food, the language. Oh, the language - here Prentice tries to imagine how the local polis would react if he came to them with his theory about the dark secret: 'Right, sonny, so you think this wee story that ye've read means yer uncle wiz kilt....Ah see. Would you mind just putting on this nice white jaikit? Aye, the sleeves are a wee bitty on the long side, but you won't be needing your hands much in this braw wee room we've got for you with the very soft wallpaper'.

Isn't that just wonderful? Obviously the polis was fae Glasgow. (Those non-Scots who think I cannot spell 'police', trust me. I'm Scottish. So are they!) I read this book before the Gavalda book (below), and while Gavalda might be minus 1 out of 10 for literary merit, this is about 8 or 9 out of 10. It's brilliantly written, brilliantly put together, so evocative also of the languages used in the different periods and by the different people. The sense of humour is so Scottish, so dry - just pure dead brilliant! But you may need to have been there to appreciate that (though I appreciate books set in England even though I haven't lived there that much....)