Book Review: The Wasp Factory

‘Perhaps he just got fed up acting normal and decided to act crazy instead, and they locked him up because he went too far…’


I only read The Wasp Factory because I unexpectedly finished the MaddAddam trilogy whilst on holiday and had to start something else to tide me over. Perhaps because of this, or maybe because of the lack of likeable characters, I found The Wasp Factory a difficult book to warm to. As I read on though, and the story became darker and more intriguing, I found myself with that familiar need to see what happens at the end.

The Wasp Factory tells the story of Frank, a troubled sociopath with a chequered family history. Frank lives on an isolated island and collects a menagerie of animals heads and dead insects. Author Iain Banks is not afraid to shy away from the morbidly grotesque (something he shares with his countryman Irvine Welsh) and the imagery employed in The Wasp Factory is easily some of the most depraved and upsetting I have seen described in any novel.

There are moments of jet black comedy and Frank makes for an interesting, if unreliable, narrator but the grotesque is never far away from the prose which makes for a difficult, if compelling, read. The spectre of Frank’s returning brother Eric also adds an extra dimension but it is only when certain pressing questions are answered in the final third of the book that The Wasp Factory becomes fully gratifying.

I’m not sure if I enjoyed The Wasp Factory but it made me feel something. Disgust? Sympathy? All of the above? Probably, but bored? Never.

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