“I had been making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles the day we heard my brother had escaped. I already knew something was going to happen; the Factory told me.”
The joy of reading challenges! This is a book and an author I would never have discovered otherwise. I found it disturbingly brilliant and loved it.
If the above opening paragraph sounds weird, it is. It reminded me of a combination of Catcher in the Rye, American Psycho and Lord of the Flies. It is the story of 16 year old Frank, who lives on an isolated Scottish Island with his father, a retired scientist. Frank’s father is odd.
Frank narrates us through his upbringing – dysfunctional to say the least. In a manner devoid of any emotion, he calmly recounts in minute detail his history and daily life on the island. In essence, Frank tortures animals, kills young relatives and performs religious type rituals.
“Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered by young brother Paul, for quite different and more fundamental reasons that I’d disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did 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.”
Despite his calm exterior, Frank life is full of anxiety. To dispel this anxiety, directed by the “wasp factory”, he has a number of rituals and tasks that he spends his days completing. These mainly involve patrolling the island, checking on his sentries (dead animals on poles), and negating any perceived threats. Frank considers his primary enemies to be women and the sea.
The news that his brother Eric has escaped froman asylum and is making his way back to the island, killing and eating dogs along the way increases Frank’s anxiety levels.
This books is full of secrets. Frank tells us of his “unfortunate disability” and the “unpleasant incident” that turned his brother Eric mad. Frank’s father insists on cooking all of Frank’s meals and has a study that is constantly locked. Frank checks it everytime his father leaves the house hoping he has forgotten to lock it which he never has. Then there is the “wasp factory”, installed in the attic which is the only place Frank’s father can’t access with his dodgy leg. We as the reader need to make out way through the book to have these secrets revealed.
I am soft when it comes to animals. So much so that I don’t even watch Disney movies involving animals in case something happens to them. For this reason I wasn’t sure that I could cope with this book but it didn’t turn out to be a problem. There was only one scene I found shocking. All I can say is that it involves maggots and completely freaked me out.
There is a big twist at the end which changes the whole context of the story.
I enjoyed this book mainly for its humour. The bizzareness and deadpan narration style were hilarious at times. Also the psychological profile aspect of Frank who actually was quite an endearing character. How could that be? And why did I respond to him in that way? Lots of layers to this book which were challenging and fun to explore.
I’m just thinking how I might be able to squeeze another book by Iain Banks into my RIP challenge pool… The Crow Road maybe?
” I didn’t need a pee because I’d been pissing on the poles during the day, infecting them with my scent and power.” Pg 14
Challenges: RIP IV, Guardian 1000 novels, Orbis Terrarum