The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
Abacus: paperback published 1990: 244 pages
‘Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different reasons that 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. Three. 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.
I read The Wasp Factory a good few years ago, and I remember being a bit disturbed and confused by it the first time around. Perhaps I had been a touch too young at the time. But I also remember being fascinated by it and reveling in the liberating nature of it.
This is not a book for the faint of heart. The brutality of some of the scenes (like the one with the rabbit) can be a bit stomach churning and perturbing. In a way it’s good thing that I didn’t remember much from the first time around, because the ending is great only if you don’t know it, but I wish I had remembered exactly why I had been disturbed by it so I could have been forewarned.
Banks is a talented wordsmith. His simple, clever use of language draws you in and keeps you captivated. It haunts you long after you’ve moved on from the page, and certain passages require a re-read just to fully appreciate the artistry. It’s a quick read – by virtue of its length and sparse language (which is not to its detriment but its benefit). The best bit by far is the description of the wasp factory itself. It kept me awake after reading about it, and I could practically feel the glass and metal under my hands.
I won’t say much more on the story – suffice to say that it’s tense and drastic and heart-clenching. The brevity of the story keeps me from revealing too much. Just make sure it’s on your reading list soon.
Next book: I read The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and loved it. It’s taken me years to get around to reading the next in the series – Red Seas Under Red Skies. And even better news? The third book in the series is due out this year! I won’t even have long to wait after this one.