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Just when you thought the weird world of a certain Mr Banks could get any stranger, along came The Blessed Very Reverend Gaia-Marie Isis Saraswati Minerva Mirza Whit of Luskentyre, Beloved Elect of God III, a Luskentyrian and Leapyearian, with a quest from God to find her wayward Sister Morag, by getting to London via a rubber tube.
Sound odd? Welcome to the world of the Luskentyre, a small cult somewhere in Scotland who shun all modern technology. They are forbidden to enter any retail establishment, watch television, or even use a phone. Despite being monetarily poor, the cult is very much rich in character, with every character being rich in all of Bank's usual quirkiness.
Banks' characterisation is the gem in this book. Many of the best characters don't come along until later in the book, and are well worth the wait, but Banks bothers to give even the most seemingly minor character a bit of their own soul and background. The creation of the lively cult 'family' does help to give it a bit of credibility, which is somewhat necessary with the mangled mess of tenants in the faith having no internal logic to them, making the whole thing seem a little silly.
The journey of Isis on the trail of Morag is full of the usual trials and tribulations. Most of these feel a little trite and horrendously predictable, but the plotline mostly serves as a vehicle for Isis' character development.
Unlike some of Banks' other protagonists which come across as more than a bit self absorbed and whiney, Isis is a refreshing, lively change. Her simplistic lifestyle has left her eternally optimistic and free of many of the trivial worries of the Unsaved, and when she chooses to be a bit rebellious, you really do rejoice in those moments. Much of her dialogue is hilarious, unbeknownst to her and her mannerisms really do endear the reader to her. You find yourself cheering along whenever she discovers any new information to help her on her quest. Her hijinks are what make this book such an entertaining read.
As well as the fun of seeing her character develop, the book also raises some very interesting questions about the nature of faith and universal truths, as well as more worldly ones about honesty and family values. It follows the usual Banks' formula of a terrible family secret, which the protagonist will unwittingly discover, be forced to question their entire existence over and then all will be resolved.
However, Banks' does manage to build the suspense and mystery well throughout the novel. Initially, the reader is as blind as Isis to any possible evil within the cult, but the accumulation of hints that there is something much greater behind it all is subtly and well done. The actual discovery of the 'truth' is more than a little disappointing, and there are a few plot ends there that are never fully resolved and seem forgotten about. It is very interesting though to discover the history behind the cult, and the stories told about it are always very entertaining, which helps to make the main plot arc a little less disappointing.
As much as I am a huge Iain Banks fan, there are a few things I dislike about his writing that are particularly apparent in 'Whit.' First is what seems to be his love of 'shock tactics.' The Festival of Love is, as you probably have guessed, an occasion where people are expected procreate as much as possible in the hope of conceiving on the 29th February. Unsurprisingly, this means the sexual aspect of life in the cult is played up greatly and whilst this is important in creating some of the insidious nature of it that Isis has yet to discover, some scenes do feel like Banks was just hoping for a bit of controversy.
Without revealing too much, it also feels like the main plot is being strung out at several points. This is a real shame, as the true fun of this book lies not in the plotline, but the hilarity of watching Isis interact with the world of the Unsaved and her subsequent character developments. This alone would have sufficient momentum to carry the book, rather than all the arbitrary situations that arise simply for the sake of furthering the plot.
If you can struggle past the bombardment of Scottish place names, the opening chapter which is only ever referred to vaguely and in passing at that, later on in the book and can cope with a bit of weird, then 'Whit' is a great read.
Whit, as most Iain Banks novels, is told in the voice of Isis Whit, a member of a small but quirky cult in Scotland. She is an important member yet her power is limited. As with most of Bank's characters she is a character with a semi-conscious quest for knowledge which will eventually turn her world upside down. An interesting parody with modern day views of knowledge. Isis, otherwise The Blessed Very Reverend Gaia-Marie Isis Saraswati Minerva Mirza Whit of Luskentyre, Beloved Elect of God III, is granddaughter and spiritual heir of Salvador Whit. He is patriarch of the Luskentyrians, who live in a low-tech community in northern Scotland and reject most technology even at great inconvenience to themselves. They also run their lives according to a makeshift collection of beliefs and obsessive little rituals. This in part forms a critique of modern religious viewspoints. At the very heart of the novel is where many characters paths collide and when Isis comes across the experiences that will lead to her eventual gain of knowledge. The novel intercuts Isis' voyage through southern England, dealing with rastafarians, policemen, racist skinheads and other dubious characters of a sort she has never encountered. She attempts to balance these characters continually with her recitation of the history of her cult and the rationale behind its rules. The novel has anthropological basis. In my opinion it opens up criticism to westerners view of other cultures. They attempt to rationalise everything they experience with what they have learned in their history, the rules that they have abided by. In essence this is pointless, different cultures have different "rules" of life, hence to impose one's laws upon another is arrogant and self-willed. A brilliant book with many interpretations, a must read for any fan of Iain Bank's literature and a must read for anybody wanting to find a witty and interesting example of expe
riencing other cultures.
Isis Whit is the Elect of God. Not your average 19-year-old girl, then. Isis is a Luskentyrian -i.e. she belongs to their small but dedicated religious cult in Stirlingshire. Her full name is The Blessed Very Reverend Gaia-Marie Isis Saraswati Minerva Mirza Whit of Luskentyre, Beloved Elect of God III. Her parents having died in a fire many years ago, she lives with the Community, including her brother and her grandfather Salvador Whit, the founder of the cult. The Community live at High Easter Offerance, and are a self-sufficient commune who sleep in hammocks, and have no television, radio, telephone, or other "worldly" goods. Isis is sent out into the world of the Unsaved (who are also known as the Obtuse, the Wretched, the Bland, the Asleep and so on), with a plentiful supply of haggis pakora, to search for her cousin Morag, who appears to have fallen by the wayside and has left the cult and disappeared to London. It's imperative that Morag comes back to the fold, because she is to be the guest of honour at the quadrennial Festival of Love, on return from her "missionary" work in London. Morag of course, has discovered life outside the Community in the big bad world, and embraced it with abandon! The Luskentyrian Festival of Love is held approximately nine months before February 29th on a leap year. The aim is to optimise the chances of another "Elect of God" being born on that date. Isis, the last child to have that birthday, is therefore the Elect of God, and with that comes leadership over the Community as well as the added pressure to produce a child. Naturally, with religious cults comes media suspicion about sexual behaviour and incestuous relationships. The Luskentyrians are no different. Initially, before we realise the extent to which Isis is isolated from the "real" world, we go along with her steadfast beliefs in the innocence and goodness that radiate through the Community. But there are ma
ny glimpses, and some not-so subtle clues that all may not be what it seems in High Easter Offerance. Isis, having lead a sheltered life completely within the confines of the cult, shows no sexual preference or desire, and comes across as asexual - or as a woman who has not had the chance to have her desires develop, at any rate. Because we read the narrative directly from Isis, knowing she is biased and indoctrinated into the ways of the cult, Banks manages to poke fun in a very effective way. His skill in portraying the character of Isis is utterly convincing. Isis of course has to go to London but at the same time she has to avoid using the technology and therefore methods that the Unsaved would use. She carries a Sitting Board (a hard board which she can put over the comfortable seats in cars and so on in order to deprive herself of cushioning) and employs the technique of Back-Bussing in order to avoid paying for a ticket on the bus. This consists of getting on buses, and when the conductor comes along asking for a ticket in the opposite direction, whilst looking confused. This of course results in being allowed to get off at the next stop and pointed in the right direction, meaning that Isis can travel one or two stops for free on every leg of her journey. I’m quite tempted to try it myself in the Edinburgh rush hour! It's this sort of thing that made reading the book worthwhile for me. I love imaginative, but silly ideas, and so many things, ideas, details, in this book filled that criterion for me. Although I didn't think the story itself was particularly strong, I did find the book gently witty, enough to spur me on to keep reading. There were some fantastic characters along the way, like Yolanda, Isis' maternal grandmother, a feisty Texan woman in her sixties with bleached blonde hair, alligator-hide cowboy boots, and who can't stand being addressed as "Granny". Isis' journey becomes f
ar more of course, than simply a mission to rescue Morag. It becomes a journey into a different world, a world with abundant technology and modern ideas that Isis can choose to ignore or to embrace as her cousin appears to have done. Isis's journey to London and back to the Community actually becomes a journey into her own beliefs, and into the history and foundations of the cult and its leader, Salvador Whit. Questions abound: Will her faith crumble? Is the Cult of the Luskentyrians all it is cracked up to be? What will happen to Isis' place in the Community when she returns? There are all sorts of twists and turns in the book which investigate lots of ideas: the sense of Community and belonging, exposure to a techno-ridden world and it's effect, and the satire of religion (or this cult at any rate). Although the opportunity to make the most of one or any of these ideas seems to be there, surprisingly Banks chooses not to make the most of any of them, and I think ultimately that benefits the gentle flow of the story that I enjoyed reading so much. More than anything, this book for me was Banks showing off with feats of imagination and sardonic wit - and for me, that was enough in itself.
I find it more than a little daunting sitting down to write a review of an Iain Banks book. For a start, he’s one of my favourite authors, which means I never feel that I could do him justice. That feeling is only compounded by the fact that Banks writes novels that are quite frankly weird - not an easy thing to review! Even though I said I’m a big fan, I still haven’t read all of Banks’ novels. I *own* them all, but have been rationing myself in the reading department. This is why I’ve only now just read his eighth (non-sci-fi) book, Whit, first published in 1995. Fellow readers of his books will know that Banks likes the weirder side of life, so it really seems quite natural to find him writing about a religious cult in Scotland. The story is told through the eyes of 19-year-old Isis Whit, a third generation Luskentyrian. That is, Isis’ grandfather founded the cult, and in Luskentyre, hence the name. This point of view of the narrative is very important, in my opinion. Isis has spent her entire life within the confines of the isolated cult atmosphere, and so her views are obviously biased. I get the feeling that Banks is *not* a religious man; however, through the character of Isis he manages to poke fun at religion while at the same time not. In other words, Isis is a devoted follower, and so describes her way of life from a believer’s point of view. Still, her earnest approval of all facets of this ‘religion’ is laid bare to mockery from the reader. A perfect example is the, um, sexual aspect of the cult. We are told that, perhaps not unnaturally, there has been a lot of press interest over the years towards the Luskentyrians and their way of life. This mainly focuses on a suspicion that any isolated cult is merely an excuse for hippy-ish ‘free love’ and one giant orgy. Isis adamantly denies that this is true; however, she soon goes on to reveal that the religio
us practice of calling fellow cult members ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ is perhaps a little more literally accurate in some cases - it seems that grandfather Salvador has been ‘spreading his seed’ most liberally! Furthermore, the novel opens not long before the Luskentyrian Festival of Love. This is held every four years, about nine months before February 29th every leap year. It is a member born on that date who is given the care of the whole Community, so it seems wise to give nature as much of a helping hand as possible! As the book starts, we are told that Isis’ cousin Morag is due to be guest of honour at this year’s Festival, returning to the Community from her ‘missionary’ work in London. However, Morag, it seems, has renounced her faith and gone missing. The worried Community decides that someone must find and talk to Morag - and Isis has very personal reasons for wanting her cousin at the Festival. You see, Isis, born on February 29th, is the current Elect of God, due not only to take over leadership of the Community, but under some unspoken pressure to produce another in her family line born on that special date. This is not a concept (‘scuse the pun!) she is at all happy with. Actually, this is a dark undercurrent in the storyline which I feel is never properly explored - it spends a lot of time being mentioned, but is never really concluded to my satisfaction. This isn’t the only thread in the story I think gets the same treatment. Several ideas are introduced, adding a certain mysterious interest in the story, only to fizzle out or at least be ignored in the end. It’s very disappointing. It wouldn’t be such a big complaint for me if not for the fact that such a big deal is made about some of these points. For instance, the whole novel opens with a recounting of a mystical event from Isis’ childhood, where she apparently brings a dead fox back to
life. She repeatedly mentions her ‘power’, puzzling over it and leaving open-ended queries about this ability. Fair enough, there is an attempt to bring some concluding aspect to this, but with nowhere near the magnitude such a concept merits. Have I gotten ahead of myself? Forgive me - I didn’t want to just give a straight run down of plot, and these discussions seemed to fit into my flow of thought. Um, well. Isis is indeed sent out to try and find Morag. It’s not as easy as it might seem, especially to a person whose religion forbids the use of normal transportation, and it turns out that Morag hasn’t exactly been living the life her family had thought she was! I’ll leave the surprise to the book, shall I? But I will say - Morag isn’t the only one who hasn’t been telling the whole truth. To be honest, in hindsight the plot element isn’t really particularly strong. What Isis’ travels should highlight is the differences between the Community’s spartan, technology-avoiding lifestyle and the modern world that we the reader are so familiar with. Again, I was disappointed with this - it just could have amounted to so much more, in my opinion. What we have is Isis wide-eyed and uncomfortable with the mechanised world, finding technology a distraction to anything approaching spirituality or enlightenment. It’s not a new idea in literature, and other than stating it, Banks doesn’t seem to do too much with the idea. Certainly no wonderful revelations seem to be forthcoming, and in the end Isis cannot resist the practicality and convenience of modern appliances, yet doesn’t seem to embrace them either. More interesting is Isis’ return to a Community where it is beginning to feel that everything may not be what it seems. One element I was impressed with (and I know, I haven’t given the impression of there being too much of it!) was the sudden loss of be
longing - always a member of a tightly-knit group, Isis arrives back to what feels like a conspiracy, and finds herself completely outcast and isolated for the first time in her life. This stands out for me as the part of the novel that ‘worked’ best, although it’s a shame it’s a fairly minor element. As well as Isis’ adventures, we have alternating segments telling of the birth and development of the cult. These seem much more interesting in the main. Again, the strong feeling from these is that Iain Banks is somewhat scoffing at religion in general - or at least at his own created one if you want to be less controversial. Here we have one man, Salvador, who claims to have had a revelation from God, and starts his own cult. By the time we join the tale in Isis’ day, Salvador is still writing and improving the tenets of his religion. These, it seems, are largely based on practicalities or personal issues rather that on the word of the Supreme Being. For instance, the Community is forbidden from entering any shop premises; it turns out that in the early days of the sect, the shop on the small island of Luskentyre was owned by the family of the two sisters Salvador marries - yes, two - and so they must avoid the shop for other than spiritual reasons! As in The Crow Road, one of my favourite Iain Banks novels, I get the impression that the real interest in this story lies in the past, and the present tale is merely the revealing of this past. In fact, I’d say that Banks has been using the same template for Whit as he had for that previous effort, and didn’t quite manage to live up to it. He is very good at building the tension, hinting at traumatic events that lie buried. However, the problem I had was that the Big Revelations that are supposed to pull this entire story together just aren’t very… big. Unlike The Crow Road, or even his first novel, The Wasp Factory, there was just no sense of
shock for me in this book. To make matters worse, the conclusion of Whit is very weak - it really does just seem to fizzle out. In hindsight, I realise that the ending wasn’t supposed to be the climax, but only a wrapping up. So the problem was that the actual climax - those revelations about the past and the present - just wasn’t up to the job. I wanted a moment where the roller coaster reached the peak, and I realised with a sudden rush what everything had meant - and I just didn’t get it. Oh dear, I've done nothing but moan, and to be honest this isn’t a bad book. As always, Banks writes well and the story is a pleasure to read, and has a lovely dark humour running through. Several very interesting concepts crop up in Whit: religion, technology versus a simpler lifestyle, pressures to live up to your expected role, family, being an outsider… however, although I can pick out these elements, I don’t feel I’ve really understood anything the author may have been trying to get across about them. On the other hand, maybe I’m just looking for too much, and more depth than was intended. The story, however, still failed to live up to expectations, largely due to a poor conclusion. Disappointing as I found this, I’m not going to deny it a recommendation - I would just say go in with your eyes open. As this isn’t a *bad* book, saying I don’t recommend it seems too forceful, somehow. I don’t regret having read this, especially as I am an Iain Banks fan, and can well see myself giving it another go at some point, to see if it reads better second time around. There are interesting and entertaining threads, and enough enjoyment along the way to support suggesting anyone reads this book. However, a poor conclusion and disappointing climax means I will only offer three stars. Enter at your own risk! •¤• Stuff •¤• ISBN: 0-349-10
768-8 RRP: £7.99 online: Tesco seems to be cheapest at £6.15, or Amazon at £6.39, but both have huge postal charges. Blackwells is £7.99 with free postage, though.
When we think of Religious cults, we tend to imagine weird people in America, we think of Waco and x-files type plots. Whit however takes us inside a small cult based in Scotland to tell a very different sort of tale. The Luskentyrians believe that the clutter of modern life prevents you from thinking clearly and hearing god. (and actually, I find I agree with them.)They avoid electric gadgets, cars and any other such harmful influences, living in a large, mostly self sufficient commune in Scotland. Many of the members are related, and of mixed blood - Scottish and Asian (resulting in some very eccentric cooking!) Their founder, Salvador, is now getting old, but his 19 year old grand-daughter Isis and her brother Alan are in the wings waiting to take over when the time comes. At first it all seems idyllic. Plans for the festival of love are under way and Isis, our first person narrator, is filled with enthusiasm. When Cousin Morag says she will not be coming back for the festival, Isis sets out to look for her. Journeying into the world of the unsaved (ie us.) she encounters police, technology, trains, plots, confusion and some insight into her own life. Does Isis sucumb to the pleasures of the twentieth century, or will she return to her home and her cult? What has happened to Morag? What is happening to the cult? This tale twists and turns all over the place and is impossible to put down. It may also give you reason to pause and look at the clutter in your own life and ask if they might be on to something after all. I found Isis to be a delightful and likeable figure, her voice is strong throughout the book, and her femeninity convincing. I really enjoyed reading this - for it's humour and it's wisdom, and cannot praise it enough. This is a very accessible book, (especially by Iain Banks' standards) and if you want to give his work a try, this isn't a bad place to start. If you already like him, you will certianl
y love this - it contains all the wit and mystery you might expect from this excellent author.
Whit by Iain Banks As you may have discovered by reading other opinions on this site, Iain Banks is generally considered to be either a genius or a second-rate charlatan. Allow me to take a stand alongside the former. In my mind, this book by Iain Banks is yet another of his modern classics. You may well start reading an Iain Banks book, convinced that it is about the mundane and the everyday. However, that is where Banks excels, in portraying the everyday and the mundane in such a way that you just can’t put his work back on the bookshelf once you have made a start into his unique and intimate world. He excels where others have found it heavy going, he lays the bait and reels you in like a fish on a hook. Whit is quite simply an act of genius from someone I believe to be a master of modern prose. I would like to bring to you now, just some of the ways in which this man allows his readers ‘a look behind the ordinary and the typical’ – so that they may better understand the more extraordinary and uncharacteristic idiosyncrasies that make up everyday life. CHARACTERISATION A big word, yes, but what does it really mean? In this instance it refers to the people who inhabit the world that is “Whit”. First up we meet Isis Whit, usually called ‘Is’. Full name, Gaia-Marie Isis Whit Isis is a member of the Luskentyrian sect. Well, to be more correct, I should really tell you that she is in fact, the “Elect of God” owing to the fact that she is the granddaughter of the founder and a Leapyearian, that is she is the third generation of her family to be born on the 29th of February of a leap year, in her case, 1976. Quite early on we find that Isis has lost her parents in a fire some sixteen years before the time in which the book is set, the year 1995, which is also the year in which Isis goes on a journey. The nex
t in what can be considered ‘the characterisation hierarchy’ is Grandfather Salvador, born 29:02:1920 – he is the founder and figurehead (or to use Banks’ term, the “OverSeer”) of the faithful. Also known as His Holiness The Blessed Salvador-Uranos Odin Dyaus Brahma Mosses-Mohammed Miraza Whit of Luskentyre, this white-robed man figures prominently throughout Whit. More on the periphery of the storyline and also living on the periphery of the Community at Higher Easter Offerance, we find Sophi Woodbean –, who is a ‘lion tamer’. Well, she’s not really a lion-tamer, she simply works as an assistant animal handler or rather an estate worker and zoo-keeper in a Safari Park. Sophi’s situation, is a little different from that of a full blown Community member; living as she does in the world outside of the Luskentyrian Community, she is considered to be one of the “Half-Saved” – almost one of “the Blands” in fact. Another essential ingredient of this, the inner world of Iain Banks, is Morag, cousin and one-time confidant to Isis’. Morag has moved out of the Community to be a missionary for her faith as a concert performer on a musical instrument called a Baryton, which, we are told is “…a form of viola da gamba …” – but with extra-resonating strings. Morag, it would appear, has changed her religion and opted not to return to Higher Easter Offerance for the Festival of Love, although she would have been the Guest of Honour. The journey taken by Isis is intended to reclaim Morag’s allegiances and bring her home to the fold. The fabulous characterisation of Yolanda, Isis’ maternal Grandmother, has her portrayed as a Texan woman in her early sixties with a penchant for margaritas and her own individual idea of ‘style’ (and my favourite character of the entire book). When on h
er fortnight-long visits, Yolanda teaches the women of the Community “Texan leg-wrestling”, what Isis refers to as “… prompt bodily defence with special reference to the more vulnerable and sensitive parts of a man.” and accurate long-distance spitting. It is due to her grandmother’s female friendly gifts that Isis is the proud owner of a “ … combined knuckle duster and bottle opener …” and a six-inch hat pin, the latter of which Isis put to excellent use early on in the plethora of awkward situations which confront out leading lady and which fill the pages of this book. Now for some of the other characters in ‘Whit’: Alan Whit This young man is Isis’ elder brother given the task of looking after the ‘office work’ of the sect and the overall running the Community. Reminiscent of a latter-day Bill Gates, I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say that he appears somewhat out-of-place in this rather parochial, insular Community. Great-aunt Zhobelia This lovely lady, who does not appear until the latter part of the book, comes from ‘Khalmakistan’ and is she is a total treasure. It has to be said, she is not Isis’ only unconventional relative. Uncle Mo Once again Iain Banks uses derivations and nick-names, with this one being short for Mohamed. Mo is the son of Zhobelia and is an Irishman with a distinct drink problem. To put things in there proper perspective, Isis also has a step-sister called Hagar, which we are informed is a biblical name, that of Abraham’s wife’s maid or slave. In addition, her step-brother is called Hymen – no you’re off on the wrong track there too. This name is that of a Greek deity, no less than the son of Apollo. Zebediah (Zeb for short) Zeb, is considered to be “…a hopeless case.”, being a
lmost an apostate (one who has lost the faith). He lives in a squat in London with his wierd friends among who are Boz, Dec and the irrepressible “Roadkill”. Such nice boys … Such a colourful bunch ! Isis also has relatives in Glasgow – as any self-respecting young woman would have – don’t you agree ? However, there will be a little more about the Glasgow branch of the Whit family later in this opinion. EVENTS If this is your first Iain Banks book, you would be well advised to remember that he has an inclination to include what could be considered rather ‘juicy bits’ in his yarns. In ‘The Wasp Factory’, there are sexual undertones running all the way through and this ‘offering’ (is the sect getting to me then?) is no different as it has a drug-induced-sexual-encounter for Isis (who is of course a virgin), encounters with a ‘porn-queen’ (just you read it and see), an attempted rape (ditto) and the merest suggestion of a lesbian relationship (no – I’m not telling you that one either). The arrest and imprisonment of our female protagonist can be read as a truly comic incident – however, if you are of a “my country right or wrong” nature – you may not find it at all funny. However, it is the quadrennial Festival of Love that is at the heart of this lively and sometimes hilarious tale. This takes place at the end of May before an impending leap year. All are welcome and the festivities are aimed at optimising the chances of another ‘Elect of God’ being born on the following 29th of February. The trouble really starts when a letter from Morag claims that she will not be returning to the Community to take part in the Festival of Love, in which she was due to be the guest of honour. (forgive me if I repeat myself – but it is in the interests of continuity – you understand)
LOCATION, LOCATION AND LOCATION At the top of any writer’s list of essential ingredients for a hit novel is that of the above. In this instance, the initial location is that of ‘High Easter Offerance’, which is a self-supporting Community of a quasi-religious sect, guided by the strictures of Grandfather Whit, the “Over-Seer” and figurehead of the faithful. These strictures are to found in a book constantly ‘up-dated’ by Grandfather, known as the “Orthography”. As a result of these strictures High Eater Offerance has no real connection with the outside world, well, at least, not what we would recognise as a connection. Even the “Elect of God” sleeps in a hammock and there is no electric light. There are no televisions, radios, telephones – etc Possibly as a result of this, Isis’ visits to here friends Sophi’s house, with its radiogram and its television, are an ‘other-worldly’ experience of “discomfort and delight”. High Eater Offerance, is situated on an estate of some two thousand acres, gifted to the Luskentyrians by Sophi Woodbean’s Grandmother, which lies on the banks of the Forth, a few miles upstream from Stirling but only twenty minutes of grandmother Yolanda’s mad-cap driving from the world renowned, Gleneagles Hotel. As Isis takes weekly *walks* to Dunblane to play on the “Flentrop” organ in the cathedral there, we can ascertain that High Eater Offerance is also close to that beautiful wee city (Dunblane is a town which has a cathedral so, I was taught, it is a ‘city’) The children of the Community travel into Killearn, one of the few places in this amazing book that I *know* exist, having paid a visit to its local ‘hostelry’ on many occasions during my wilder/younger days. Another location made use of by Iain Banks, which I know for a fact exists is the home of Isis’
relative, Topec, a.k.a., ‘Topes’ who lives in a student flat in “Dalmally Street” , which I know for a fact is just off Maryhill Road, Glasgow. The pair also pay a visit to the Mitchell Library, one of my most favourite places in the entire city of Glasgow. Not one to show favouritism, Banks has his lead character pronounce that, “Edinburgh has merits as a city ….” but she adds to this by saying that it is, “ … to be avoided unless one has some pressing need to stay there …” Then again, Banks also takes a passing whack at cities such as Glasgow, when Isis remarks that, “We have always held it to be a bad sign when navigating one’s way around a city becomes a matter of simply knowing ones x-axis from one’s y-axis ...” Mmmm … I think a ‘Glasgow Girl’ could consider taking that remark personally – but I won’t. I digress. Back to the main thrust of the book. Only Iain Banks could take the giant leap of weaving the ‘flumes’ to found in a certain Edinburgh swimming pool into the prose of his story, in such a way as to make each reader believe that these wonders of the modern leisure world are due some recognition and ‘belong’ exactly where he places them within the limitless confines his yarn. I could rant on and on about this excellent book. However, no matter what I think of it. What would really be interesting would be to see other opinions written on its contents, possibly from a differing perspective, as a result of reading this opinion. Who am I kidding? What I really want to see are dozens of wonderful rates being given on this opinion, possibly even the occasional comment being left for my future enjoyment. Thank you for taking the time to read my opinion on what I believe is an excellent book. I can honestly tell you, it has been one of the most enjoy
able opinions it has been my pleasure to write. GG ORIGINAL OPINION Pleas read this one too if you have not done so already ? GG Roll on the Festival of Love When I first started reading Iain Banks’ “Whit” I was totally unaware that, as we speak, it is being made into a movie. The movie has Emma Thompson in the ‘lead’ role, - playing the part of a Scottish lassie - as is only right. Don’t you agree? Then again, Isis is only nineteen - and Emma Thompson is ... older? I digress; I’m sure Iain Banks writes ‘with a Scottish accent’ as it were. Maybe that is what attracts me to his work, - his Scottishness. Or maybe it’s a case of “like attracts like" (two nut cases who have never been caught). Whatever it is, it would appear that Iain Banks has found yet another winner in this fabulous book. Isis is the “elect of God” of what the media have been known to call “a Bizarre Cult”. An interesting piece of information - she is also the owner of a combined knuckle-duster and bottle opener. Her quest is to find what has happened to her cousin - who has ‘left’ the cult and made her name as a classical pianist. Morag, the cousin in question, was due to be part of an extra-special ceremony and her disappearance has come at a very inopportune moment in the history of the cult. Their leader, Isis’ grandfather, is not going to be long on this side of heaven and things are in dire need of ‘sorting’. Grandfather Salvador has been updating the contents of the book that all Luskentyrians follow; a book which contains, amongst other things, his writings on “the Hearsay of Size” - which - I’m sorry to disappoint you all - relates to the fact that the larger a person you are - the better ‘receptor’ you will be fo
r God’s Voice. Don’t let this disappointment put you off too much though, as I’m sure that reading the book will entertain and mystify you every bit as much as it did me. <br> As Isis floats off down the river to find her cousin, you wonder just what mysteries this young woman will come across next. After all, she is being let loose as it were on a world which does not believe that CDs are ungodly - unlike her folks back at home. When I tell you that the full title of this book is "Whit or Isis Among the Unsaved” you’ll begin to understand that Iain Banks just doesn’t write like anybody else. Try to get your hands on this brilliant book. After that - try to get your eyes on it - as they tell me that is what helps one to read something .... Mmmmm. By the way - while I'm here ... do you know if Kangaroos can be counted as having two feet or four - technically speaking - I mean? GG Whit by Iain Banks ISBN: 0349107688 £6:99
Isis Whit is a member of the Elect of God, a religious cult based near Stirling. When her cousin Morag renounces her faith, it falls to Isis to venture out into the techno-ridden barreness of nineties Britain to save her. But Morag has embraced the ways of the unsaved with surprising vigour.