The Quarry by Ben Halls

The Quarry is a collection of short stories all told by men and centred around a housing estate in West London. The Quarry Lane estate is a pretty generic estate: dodgy pub, club that changes name, bookies, and people dealing with lost families, addiction, sexuality, and relationships. The stories are all centred around the estate and the people who live there, with locations and people straying across stories and building up a picture both of modern Britain and of the different ways people from the same place live.

Short story collections can sometimes feel disjointed and not part of a whole, but this isn’t the case in The Quarry, which has a real focus and a sense that it could almost be a novel that just happens to only show small snippets of each person’s life. Some of the stories end with a twist or revelation and others are more meditative, like the postman returning to the estate he grew up on for the first time. Halls tells these characters’ stories in individual voices, trying to get across the sense of different ages and lives, but it comes together well in a way that makes the stories gripping rather than too fleeting or not fleshed out enough.

The Quarry is an impressive thing, as a short story collection that feels very much like a whole work. It is at its best when tackling things like addiction, but also very good at showing the ways that the male characters don’t realise what things are like for other people in their lives.