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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Whit and Wisdom of Banks
Iain Banks first novel, The Wasp Factory, was published in 1984. In the years since, he's won critical acclaim, topped best-seller lists and has even written Science Fiction books under the cunning nom-de-plume 'Iain M. Banks'. He's also seen this book, "The Crow Road", adapted for television by the BBC in 1996. "Whit" is his eighth non-sci-fi book,...
Published on 26 Jan 2006 by Craobh Rua

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad
I read it for Book Club and all five of us found it okay, but no better than that. Isis isn't a very convincing woman in my opinion, she seems to take some stuff in her stride that seems very unlikely. Also, Zeb's speech patterns made me murderous.
Published 11 months ago by T-bas


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Whit and Wisdom of Banks, 26 Jan 2006
This review is from: Whit (Paperback)
Iain Banks first novel, The Wasp Factory, was published in 1984. In the years since, he's won critical acclaim, topped best-seller lists and has even written Science Fiction books under the cunning nom-de-plume 'Iain M. Banks'. He's also seen this book, "The Crow Road", adapted for television by the BBC in 1996. "Whit" is his eighth non-sci-fi book, was first published in 1995 and comes with the subtitle "Isis Amongst the Unsaved".
The book's central character is Isis Whit, commonly called Is - though more formally known as Blessed or Beloved Isis. Isis is a Luskentyrian, a member of a religious sect founded by her grandfather, Salvador. Like him, she is very important to the faithful - she holds the position 'Elect of God' and is a future leader of the Luskentyrians. Home is High Easter Offerance - located in Scotland, on the banks of the River Forth. The book opens in May 1995, when Isis is nineteen years old and with the Festival of Love approaching. The Luskentyrians consider people born on the 29th of February very special - the Blessed Isis herself was born on that date. As a result, a Festival of Love is held every four years - at the end of May in the year preceding a Leap Year. As the end of May is nine months before the end of February and it is a Festival of Love, I'm sure you can figure out what happens at it...
Isis' cousin, Morag - while not strictly considered a missionary - has been living in London for six years. Based on her letters, it appears she has become a successful musician - an internationally renowned baryton soloist, no less. She had been due to return to High Easter Offerance for the festival, where she would have been the Guest of Honour. However, her most recent letter to the community includes the news that she has turned her back on her faith and will not be returning. One possible option was for Isis to take Morag's place as guest of Honour - something she wasn't entirely keen on. Instead, Isis is sent to London to try and rescue her cousin - the book tells the story of her journey and return.
This is only the second book by Banks I've read, the first being "The Crow Road". Like it, I found "Whit" to be very enjoyable. It's told entirely from Isis' point of view - she describes her journey, outlines her discoveries, explains her beliefs and tells the history of her sect. Luskentyrians avoid modern technology as far as possible - nothing at High Easter Offerance runs on electricity, for example. It's amusing, at times, to see her reaction to life in the 'modern' world. There are several very strong supporting characters - Yolanda, Isis' very colourful and hugely entertaining Texan grandmother, particularly stands out. The only disappointment is that some of them didn't make a bigger appearance. Highly recommended !
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting!, 7 Oct 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Whit (Paperback)
It's hard to pigeonhole Iain Banks. As a writer he's traversed the entire literary landscape of Scotland in every medium from science fiction through thrillers, warped social satire, and even the literary equivalent of the road movie, if you count "Raw Spirit". "Whit" has a little bit of all of the above. Its leading character is also unlike almost all other Banksian narrators: the teenage Isis Whit, brought up in a remote commune by an other-worldly religious cult, is a far cry from the cynical, dysfunctional individuals who are Banks's stock in trade. In fact she's more like a modern-day Alice exploring a Wonderland of modern technology, habitual dishonesty, sexual weirdness, and unconventional spirituality. Her breathless naivety as we follow her travels through her own wide eyes paints a remarkable picture of life in modern Britain, and colours a mystery as gripping as that of "The Crow Road" and just as enchanting. Of course, by the book's end, Isis has had to come to terms with the realisation that all is not necessarily as it seems in Paradise; she leaves us older and wiser, but not, we hope, disillusioned.
For me this is easily one of Banks' best books. It's the only one of his that you might seriously contemplate lending to your grandmother and is much more accessible to the Banks newcomer than much of his work. The mystery element which pervades the story is fascinating, making this an un-put-downable read. And there are enough searching questions about life, God and the world we live in to make this much more than just another mystery story. The quirks of Banks' writing style and the weirdness of his characters come across in the most engaging way. 450 pages will pass like they're 100.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegance and eloquence, a gently brilliant piece of fiction., 16 May 2001
By 
This review is from: Whit (Hardcover)
Banks does an excellent job here of turning what is in essence a simple story into a fascinating and enjoyable journey. Isis is supremely-well depicted, the events richly and vividly portrayed, and some of the characteristics of those involved so believeable that you could not help but feel real empathy (or disdain, depending on who it was) for the main players.
But it is at the higher levels where you find the true value of this book, because it forces open even closed minds on the trickiest of subjects, introducing it as it does in a dismarming, balanced, entertaining and unprejudiced way, lightly tugging at one's conscience and provoking a very considered personal response.
Cleverly done, as one would perhaps expect, but nonetheless both entertaining and rewarding throughout, and well worth the read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelations and discovery in a small Scottish cult., 5 Feb 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Whit (Audio CD)
Isis is the central figure in a small, Amish-like family cult in a remote part of Scotland.
She is sent out on a quest into the wider world to find a cousin who has disappeared, and begins a voyage of discovery about herself, the cult and its various members. Her most significant revelations, however, occur after she returns home.
This story is quirky and amusing with delightfully empathetic characters, and a lightness of touch in the writing. It's not a simple or facile tale though and it'll keep you thinking long after you finish it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes I liked it!!, 25 July 2011
By 
A. Pick - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Whit (Paperback)
Yes I liked this..... a novice IB reader and only the 3rd of his books I have read.... As any IB reader will have found they are all so different and I think that's what makes them so readable. I wont give the plot away as some reviewers do but will make this short and sweet! I enjoyed the naive but strong main character ,loved the language and her Quaint ways and words...... I actually didn't want to put the book down which is unusual for me...so yes give it a go!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An under-rated entry in Banks' canon?, 3 Mar 2010
By 
A. Brown "oneexwidow" (Bristol) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Whit (Paperback)
When I first read this, around 14 years ago, I really enjoyed it and remember feeling it was perhaps a bit under-rated in comparison with other books in Banks' canon. 14 years on, has my opinion changed?

In a word, no, although I'm not sure whether this is under-rated any more - judging by the other reviews on Amazon, it seems to be quite well loved.

Whit is the story of Isis, the Elect of God, who has led a cloistered life in a religious community on the banks of the River Forth in central Scotland. Isis' world is turned upside down when it is discovered that her cousin Morag - an internationally renowned musician living in London - has found a new faith and will not be returning for the four yearly Festival of Love.

It is decided that Isis must go on a mission to London to find Morag and seek to return her to the Faith. On returning from this mission, however, Isis discovers that her world has changed even more than she had imagined and she finds herself beginning a new, more personal mission.

Banks has never made a secret of his views on organised religion and this story reflects them fully. He creates what his protagonist accepts is a cult complete with a charismatic leader, some grounding in various extant religions and it's own rituals and sacraments. Having constructed this world, he sets about tearing it apart.

The book is more than a none-too-subtle snipe at religiousity, however. Banks also explores the nature of power, the tension it creates, it's ability to corrupt and the potential for hypocracy. On the other hand, he also seeks to explore whether faith should be blind or informed - whether the good of the community should trump .

The impact of a life lived away from the rest of society is also a central theme - Isis is portrayed as both intelligent and well-versed in the ways of her people and hopelessly naive and ignorant when she leaves the community.

While these themes are there to be explored and teased, this is far from a heavy novel. Unlike many of Banks' other books, the story is told in a linear fashion - albeit with flashbacks - which makes it more accessible than, say, Walking on Glass. The pace of the book is swift and the writing has, for the most part, a lightness of touch.

After 14 years, I'm glad I enjoyed it as much as I did. I hope I'll not be leaving it another 14 years!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out loud funny, 29 Aug 2006
By 
J.R.Hartley (NW England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Whit (Paperback)
Without doubt the funniest Iain Banks book I have read to date and very different to the others. This is a great twist on the old innocent abroad yarn with the naive yet wise Isis Whit out to save her cousin from the clutches of the corrupt world and resolve the power struggles within her increasingly fractious community. In itself it doesn't sound much but you'll laugh out loud more than once and you'll marvel at another dazzling and beguiling tale from Iain Banks.

Ideal starter for those who are yet to take a trip into the Banks imagination, but also a welcome diversion off the dark path of his other novels for those who are already blooded by The Wasp Factory, Complicity and so on. Female friends of mine who have read his books all seem to rate this one as their favourite as it has a strong female lead and all the blokes are secondary characters and are largely buffoons and stooges for Isis. A cracking read with more than a few twists to keep those pages turning.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whit - very good!!!, 10 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Whit (Paperback)
With 'Whit' Iain Banks has produced a very good novel. It gave me hours of pleasure to read. The story combines a mystery with comedy and does so very effectively. In this respect it is rather different from Iain Bank's other books. I hope he writes another similar book soon. It is easily one of his best works to date! If Iain Banks should read this, perhaps he would consider bringing back the main character in another story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a good read, 30 April 2014
By 
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This review is from: Whit (Kindle Edition)
Enjoyed this unusual book from Iain Banks. An intriguing read to keep you page turning. Thoroughly recommended. Read it now.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 24 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Whit (Kindle Edition)
I first read Whit about 15 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Some really funny moments throughout the book. On re-reading, I still feel the same about this book and shall no doubt return to it again in a few years.
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