“The most frightening novel of the year,” said The Scotsman of Quarry on publication, in the 1960s, and with good cause: it is among the most unsettling novels of its time. Written in cool, realistic prose, it weaves a narrative that seems almost too horrifying to be true – yet sustains an atmosphere of normality that only increases its power to shock.
It is both a gripping and believable account of a crime and a parable filled with complex symbolism. “Nothing since A High Wind in Jamaica probes the depths of innocence with such terror and finesse as Jane White’s novel,” declared Newsday.
Todd, Randy, and Carter are teenagers, grammar school boys who come across a younger boy while roaming the countryside around their commuter town. They decide to hold him hostage in a small cave in an abandoned quarry and then consider what to do next. They ride bikes, worry about exams, and have to get home in time for supper, yet they imprison and elect to torture another boy with the cold calculating objectivity that Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil.”
In Lord of the Flies, William Golding needed a plane crash and a tropical island from which to imagine the capacity for violence and evil in his English schoolboys. Jane White, a mother and housewife living in Godalming, born in Cambridge, and who grew up on the Norfolk coast, needed only a chance encounter in fields not unlike those around her own locales. Indeed, when we consider how in the UK our own society and its institutions have been ransacked by an equivalent cruelty emanating from corridors of power, where the Bullingdon Club have gambolled and gambled freely, we too might consider such things all too easy to imagine, and all the more relevant to consider, these days.
Out of print for over 50 years, Quarry continues the mission of the Recovered Books series to rescue exceptional books long unavailable to today’s readers. We commend it to you as our latest addition to this excellent, and growing, list.