Iain Banks’ success as a writer came from his ability to write about the weird and fanciful in a unique way that prompted criticism of the period and place in which he inhabited. ‘Whit’ does not disappoint and has all the trade-marks of a brilliant Banks novel.
‘Whit’ tells the story of Isis Whit, a devoted member of the Luskentyre religious cult, who will one day assume position as the Elect of God because she was born on the 29th February which the Luskentyrians hold sacred. When her cousin Morag is perceived to have gone off the rails, Isis goes on a journey to London (which involves riding a rubber tyre and using a sitting board to avoid the comforts of twenty first century Brits) to bring her back in time for the Luskentyrian Festival of Love. Along the way Isis makes a shocking discovery of what her cousin is actually now doing with her life and, upon returning, uncovers some deep family secrets.
As with any other Banks book, this novel is peppered with humorous pontifications and the bizarre. Banks uses the novel to go on a rampage against modern Britain in the early 1990s with all of its techno and rave scene debauchery. There is also the occasional political rampage and told through the eyes of Isis who is so deeply involved in the Luskentyre religious cult this is hilarious. Obviously, there is a discomforting twist in the tale towards the end but unfortunately for me, the ending overall was a little disappointing.
That aside, ‘Whit’ is a hugely enjoyable read which takes you on a fantastical journey detailing familial ties, kinship and betrayal. It also portrays how much of an impact religion and popular culture can have upon our lives, for the good and the bad.