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Get a buzz from The Wasp Factory,
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
There is a general feeling amongst all those that have read Iain Banks’ controversial offering, The Wasp Factory, that they have experienced either feelings of extreme love, or extreme hatred towards it. There is little (if any) in between. It is the following statement, made by central character Frank, which is also included in the blurb on the back of the novel, that has managed to lure so many into his twisted and merciless private world: “Two years after I killed Blyth, I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different reasons and more fundamental reasons than I’d disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did my young cousin Esmeralda, 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.”
There were stages during reading the book that I felt I could not continue to the next chapter, in fact there were passages I skipped altogether, as the extreme cruelty Frank inflicts upon animals with his home-made bombs and fire equipment was horrifying. Anyone considering reading the book must bear in mind the radical measures Banks’ takes to convey to the reader the pitiless workings of young Frank’s mind. It is not only animals, but, as the above quote states, he also did away with his innocent friend, brother and cousin. The author did not shy away from depicting the nauseating acts in graphic detail. Looking past all of this however (if that is at all possible), The Wasp Factory is utterly fascinating from a psychological perspective: It is possible for the reader to sympathise with the youngster to a certain extent, as he has clearly been deprived of love throughout his life. His father, fanatical about the exact measurements of anything and everything, constantly quizzing his son on the number of centimetres in diameter of the table top and so on, is clearly not of sound mind (and this is further emphasised within the climax of the novel, when the author’s clever twist to the tale is superbly revealed). With no mother figure either, and only a clinically insane brother for occasional company, it is little wonder that Frank despises women and everything they stand for.
It is true that there is a certain amount of dark humour in the book, but it is a measure of the reader’s own soundness of mind as to exactly how amusing they find certain jokes! On occasions, I likened the narrative to a cross between the League of Gentlemen and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Frank’s elder brother, Eric, (recently escaped from a secure unit) spends the book attempting to find his way back to the family home, and intermittently phoning the house with tales of the path of destruction he has left since absconding.
I believe the fact Banks set the novel on a secluded Scottish island is his way of conveying Frank’s isolation not only from society, but also morally being far from what others would consider normal. It would be fair to say that there is a certain degree of subtext present in The Wasp Factory, and although you will often find it (incredibly) disturbing, it is worth reading for the message Banks puts across, and the compelling way in which the tale unfolds. I urge you to read it.