Book review: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks


Frank – no ordinary sixteen-year-old – lives with his father outside a remote Scottish village. Their life is, to say the least, unconventional. Frank’s mother abandoned them years ago: his elder brother Eric is confined to a psychiatric hospital; and his father measures out his eccentricities on an imperial scale. Frank has turned to strange acts of violence to vent his frustrations. In the bizarre daily rituals there is some solace. But when news comes of Eric’s escape from the hospital Frank has to prepare the ground for his brother’s inevitable return – an event that explodes the mysteries of the past and changes Frank utterly.


I was really hoping for something more from this novel but it never really clicked with me. I think if I had read this as a teenager I might have enjoyed this more. To me, it felt a bit senseless, until right at the end, but by that point it wasn’t able to fully redeem itself.⁠

It certainly was a very bizarre read. Although I had been warned of this beforehand, I still wasn’t quite prepared for what lay ahead of me.⁠

I don’t normally have an issue with violent novels, see American Psycho, but this one was filled with child death and animal abuse for what felt like no other reason than to shock. It made me uncomfortable to read, and the thought that this was going to be continuous throughout the rest of the story made it feel like a chore to pick up each time.⁠

It’s one saving grace was the end. I usually hate when people tell you there is a twist in a book, but as it was it’s only redeeming feature, I’m not really bothered about mentioning it. The reveal in itself was quite cheap, but it’s the repercussions of it that I actually enjoyed. The way our main character, Frank, comes to terms with what happens was brilliant and tied up so much of what felt like meaningless junk on first reading.⁠

This would have been 2 star read if it had not been for the ending. I really struggled to enjoy this one throughout, but was left pleasantly baffled by the end. It has some very grotesque scenes, so be warned if you’re thinking of picking this up!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Book Details:

Pages: 184
Edition Published:
1990, Abacus
Genre: Fiction, Horror, Thriller
Goodreads Av. Rating: 3.81

3 Replies to “Book review: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks”

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