A little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing....
Innocent in the ways of the world, an ingenue when it comes to pop and fashion, the Elect of God of a small but committed Stirlingshire religious cult: Isis Whit is no ordinary teenager. When her cousin Morag - Guest of Honour at the Luskentyrian's four-yearly Festival of Love - disappears after renouncing her faith, Isis is marked out to venture among the Unsaved and bring the apostate back into the fold.
But the road to Babylondon (as Sister Angela puts it) is a treacherous one, particularly when Isis discovers that Morag appears to have embraced the ways of the Unsaved with spectacular abandon... Truth and falsehood; kinship and betrayal; 'herbal' cigarettes and compact discs - Whit is an exploration of the techno-ridden barrenness of modern Britain from a unique perspective.
I've read many Iain Banks novels, but this is the first audiobook of his work that I've listened to. The story, which I won't re-hash here, follows a familiar Banks theme of a first person narrator faced with a challenge or mystery and coming to a striking realisation that things are not as they had assumed. The reveal, in the last few chapters, is deeply satisfying. One of his best.
Helen McAlpine's narration is excellent. From Isis Whit's posh Scots to Glaswegian, Texan, Jamaican and estuary Essex accents she barely falters, although I did think that Great Aunt Zhobelia's mix of Indian sub-continent and Harris Scots sounded a little like she was from the Welsh valleys, but that's really nitpicking. The effect is that it's always clear who is speaking.
Overall, this was really excellent. I was sad when I had finished it. You'll need to listen to it yourself to learn about the Haggis pakora though.
I found Helen McAlphine's narration of the story really worked and brought the main character to life.
Unfortunately this is one of a small number of Ian Bank's novels that left me cold and struggling to stick with it. I could not find any real engagement with the characters or the storyline and nearly gave up several times.
The story is full of twists and intrigues and very well performed, but it is the quality of the writing that gets the fifth star.
Would you try another book written by Iain Banks or narrated by Helen McAlpine?
Probably not. The setting was barely believable and the transformation of the main character unbelievable.
If you’ve listened to books by Iain Banks before, how does this one compare?
Did not have the end at the beginning so started out better, but if it had I would not have gone on.
What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?
Female voices were great. The male voices far from it.
If this book were a film would you go see it?
Would you consider the audio edition of Whit to be better than the print version?
I have e not read the print version but really enjoyed the narration in the audio version.
What did you like best about this story?
I enjoyed Whits journey and development, I thought she was an interesting character and was sad when the book came to an end.
What about Helen McAlpine’s performance did you like?
Helen has a very nice voice with a lovely tone and accent. Will definitely look for more books narrated by Helen.