The Quarry by Iain Banks: a review


This was always going to be a difficult read. The Quarry is the final book to be written by Iain Banks before he died of Cancer. One of the main characters in the book is, yes, dying of cancer. Since the publication of The Wasp Factory Banks has dealt with extreme and dark situations. The Quarry isn’t as extreme and dark as that, but it does step from one shadow to the next.

The story revolves around a group of old university friends having a reunion one weekend about twenty years since their course. It is told through the eyes of Kit, the son of Guy, who is the man dying. The dialogue is gritty, earthy and hard-hitting. In one sense it explores the fact that all the characters, and perhaps us the reader, are all dying / failing / insignificant* (delete deepening which metaphor you want to explore). It doesn’t pull any punches but never dissolves into sentimentality or kitsch.

The Quarry is humanity in all its depravity and futility, yet also in all its fellowship and potential. This won’t bring you tears of joy, or indulge you in escapism. You may find yourself staring at the pages and seeing yourself in the words you read. Banks holds a mirror. As we look into it we see our lives… this was always going to be a difficult read.