Nominated for England's prestigious Booker Prize and largely inspired by her own retirement, Quartet in Autumn is the book that catapulted Barbara Pym back into the glow of the literary spotlight. For well over fifteen years, Barbara Pym was shunned by the fickle publishing and writing community for books that seemed too out-of-date and not aligned or in vogue with the political, social and economic happenings of the times. Now, though long since deceased, she is often compared and rightfully exulted to being the modern-day Jane Austin. Her books, irrelevant of the critics, do show that she was indeed a master of sparse language, intricate yet subtle plots as well as a dissecting and analytical mind to a plethora of human issues that affect us all. She was an artist of true literature.
Quartet in Autumn is the story of four aging office workers, two of whom are nearing retirement. One is a widower who is not all that family oriented, and the others are all spinsters. No marriage. No kids. The four characters are: Marcia Ivory, Edwin Braithwaite, Letty Crowe and Norman. There is nothing whatsoever remarkable about any of them; they are simple and ordinary. What glues them all together is their office job, work that can be replaced by the advancement of computer technology. One would refer to these four as aging dinosaurs symbolizing a bygone era, and that is how Pym evokes their individual essence. All four characters put up a front, harden their hearts, in order to survive losing or being on the cusp of losing the one pivitol lifeline that gives their overly ordinary existence meaning--their office work. Yet, when Marcia and Letty do end up retiring, the dynamic of the four office worker's relationships change. And each one must confront what it means to truly be alone, to be lacking the warmth of human bonds and involvement in something bigger than themselves. That is an issue that each one confronts. And it is in the complexity of this single issue where Barbara Pym shines in juxtaposing each character atop a difined concern. The evocator is not society; it is the self. And that is what each character must confront, some successfully and others less so. Granted, when people retire, they don't all immediately jump the boat and head towards the senior center for fun, for not everyone operates that way, and the character of the interfering social worker Janice Brabner represents that fully.
Quartet in Autumn raises a bunch of questions about what it means to retire. What does it mean for the individual who is not the go-getter with the opinion that life begins at sixty or seventy and jets off on an international tourist package with other like-minded senior citizens? Especially in this day and age where our seniors are redefining what it means to be old, Quartet in Autumn is the book that proffers the opposite opinion and or approach to the age issue. And it is equally important, for it showcases that you are in many respects as old as you act and carry yourself. Being a character in a Barbara Pym novel may not be a wonderful thing, but they eventually see the light and improve
Nominated for England's prestigious Booker Prize and largely inspired by her own retirement, Quartet in Autumn is the book that catapulted Barbara Pym back into the glow of the literary spotlight. For well over fifteen years, Barbara Pym was shunned by the fickle publishing and writing community for books that seemed too out-of-date and not aligned or in vogue with the political, social and economic happenings of the times. Now, though long since deceased, she is often compared and rightfully exulted … more
Quartet in Autumnis one of the books Pym wrote during the 15 years when no one would publish her, and perhaps the same kind of balance between hopelessness and inner strength helped shape this novel's story about four friends in an office nearing the age of retirement. They are people who have lived unspectacularly, but who have conjured a sense of themselves from the quartet's unity. Things start to change when two of them retire. Pym maps this ordinary strangeness of life with her particular genius for brilliant psychological insight and quiet humor that never strains for effect.--This text refers to an alternatePaperbackedition.