Book Review: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

Genre: Contemporary, Thriller/Horror

Publishing Info: 2013 by Abacus (first published 1984)

Pages: 244

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different reasons than I’d disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda more or less on a whim.
That’s my score to date.
I haven’t killed anybody for years, and don’t intend to ever again.
It was just a stage I was going through.
Enter – if you can bear it – the extraordinary private world of Frank, just sixteen, and unconventional, to say the least.

The Wasp Factory is certainly an interesting read. When I started reading I wasn’t sure if I liked it but as I read it grew on me as I became more intrigued and realised how clever it is. It is most certainly an odd book, with some very strange goings-on.

The plot revolves around Frank, and the events that follow when he discovers that his mad brother has escaped from the institution where he was living and is heading back to the island in Scotland where Frank and his father live. The book is a sort of self-discovery for Frank as he finds out about his true identity, but I can’t say any more as I don’t want to spoil it.

The character of Frank is quite disturbing. He sacrifices animals and enjoys blowing things up with bombs. Yet he isn’t a villain or an anti-hero. He’s one of those characters you can’t categorise. And despite the awful things he does and has done I wanted to follow his journey. I quite like reading unreliable narrators and Frank is certainly one of those.

Apparently, what I’ve heard from other people who have read it is that it is a subtle dark comedy. I didn’t really see any comedy in it at all. But then dark comedy isn’t usually my thing so maybe I just couldn’t see it.

There was only one thing holding me back from giving this book five stars. There is a scene (which I can’t explain without spoiling the book) which I found particularly graphic and upsetting. It’s an image I won’t be able to get rid of now that I have read. Something which I can’t unread. Personal circumstances probably made this scene more upsetting for me then it might for other people. I just thought I ought to explain why I only gave it four stars.

I would really recommend this book. It’s unusual (in a good way) and such an interesting, dark read. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and there were a few twists and turns along the way that were very surprising. It’s probably not for everybody, but I would recommend having a stab at it. It will be worth it in the end.

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