Friday, 12 September 2014

The Quarry by Iain Banks

review by Maryom

Kit is an autistic teenager brought up solely by his father Guy, never knowing who his mother is. Till now they've managed ok living in the old house by the quarry where Guy spent his student years, but time is running out for Guy who is dying of cancer. With this in mind, all Guy's oldest, closest friends from student days have been invited along for the weekend for one last get-together before his time runs out.  His friends though have something else on their minds - a video tape, one of several that were made back when they were film and media students, but one which could prove to be extremely embarrassing if made public. So between the drinking, political arguments and bitchy reveals about who slept with whom, they search, either secretly or as a group, for it.

I've taken a while to get round to reading this last novel by Iain Banks but spotting it on a library shelf I decided it was time to go for it. As I'd half expected from other reviews it isn't his greatest work (for me that will always be The Crow Road) but it feels much more personal. It's difficult not to believe that many of Guy's harangues against life, death and everything in between aren't Banks' own.

It reads well, as you'd expect, and unfolding events pull you in nicely. The whole 'scattered friends meet up for the weekend' concept feels a little bit like an Alan Ayckbourn farce meets Agatha Christie so you're not sure whether to expect laughs or murder - and with Banks it could be either. Sitting on the sidelines, distanced by his age and autism, Kit closely observes events without necessarily catching the undercurrents.  and he's always on the lookout for clues about his mother's identity. There's lots of threads to be unravelled and it was only afterwards that I thought the plot seemed a little thin. For any other writer I'd probably have said it was great, but it's not Iain Banks at his brilliant, mind-blowing best.   

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Abacus
Genre - adult fiction

Other reviews; Women's Prize for Fiction Book Reviews


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head regarding your comment, "Guy's harangues against life, death and everything in between aren't Banks' own." One can only imagine Iain raging against life and death and everything in between. I liked your "Alan Ayckbourn farce meets Agatha Christie". I also thought there was a bit of Kenneth Branagh's film 'Peter's Friends' in the storyline.

    1. Although I've seen it,I'd forgotten all about "Peter's Friends" - very appropriate!