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Quartet in Autumn Hardcover – Aug 1978

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 218 pages
  • Publisher: E P Dutton (Aug. 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525186654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525186656
  • Product Dimensions: 50.8 x 50.8 x 50.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,303,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Barbara Pym's unpretentious, subtle, accomplished novels . . . are for me the finest examples of high comedy to have appeared in England during the past 75 years...spectacular (Sunday Times)

Barbara Pym has a sharp eye for the exact nuances of social behaviour (The Times)

The wit and style of a twentieth century Jane Austen (Harpers & Queen)

Very funny and keenly observant of the ridiculous as well as the pathetic in humanity (Financial Times)

A spare masterpiece of loneliness in retirement (Telegraph)

Quartet in Autumn is immeasurably her finest work of fiction (Evening Standard)

An alert miniaturist ... her novels have a distinctive flavour, as instantly recognisable as lapsang tea (Daily Telegraph) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

'No novelist brings more telling observation or more gentle pleasure' Jilly Cooper --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 May 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Letty, Marcia, Norman and Edwin all work together in an office dealing with unspecified paperwork. Marcia has had a major operation and she and Letty are about to retire, leaving Norman and Edwin working. The style of writing is subtle and understated and the characters mildly eccentric -Marcia keeps well washed empty milk bottles in her garden shed. All four will be changed irrevocably by the end of the book.
The story deals with issues we must all face at some point in our lives. Loneliness, independence, being used and using. The minor characters are well realised - Mrs Pope - who Letty lodges with; Father G the priest with whom Edwin is friends; Marjorie who would like Letty to live with her if there are no better alternatives; and Janice - the social worker - who visits Marcia with the best of intentions.
Four people growing old and dealing with life's slings and arrows in the only way they know how. Of the four Letty is perhaps the most likeable, striving as she does to keep the peace, realising by the end of the book that Marjorie is not the best friend she could have and finding the courage to make her own choices. All four will stay in your mind long after you have finished reading. I shall definitely be looking for more books by Barbara Pym. If you like Anita Brookner you will enjoy this - Barbara Pym has the same acute eye for all the facets of everyday life.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 31 Oct. 2005
Format: Paperback
Like the quartet of her novel, Barbara Pym during her writing career may have found herself swept away as if she had never been. She was one of the most underrated authors of the past 75 years, according to the Times Literary Supplement. It is ironic, then, that she created four such memorable characters, people in the autumn of their working lives who somehow survive the sensation of being phased out (of their jobs, their homes, their human ties) and provide us a glimpse of the heartening truth that even the most ordinary of lives hold infinite possibilities for change, all life, as the author points out being nothing so much as a great opportunity. Barbara Pym has given us a tale of solitude and a particular sort of intimacy which oscillates between understated tragedy and an irrepressible circumspect comedy. With a crisp pace not held back by unnecessary detail this book is a soothing antidote to all that is excessive in contemporary literature.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 July 1999
Format: Paperback
Don't be put off by the title of this novel: there is nothing heavy or depressing about it. "Quartet in Autumn" is about ordinary old people in the 1970s and has not a shred of romance in it; it defies ALL the conventions of fiction, Victorian or modern; still it is a fascinating, hilarious, profound book--the best of Pym's novels, without a doubt. This novel is totally original and I highly recommend it!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Livia on 26 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
While it's true that this final novel has little of the high comedy that made her earlier works popular its elegaic tone is note-perfect.

The winding down of work and life for Letty, Marcia, Norman and Edwin is described with a skill that makes them unforgettable if not wholly likeable. Letty is pleasant but self-effacing and ineffectual, Edwin's involvement with the Church and clergy is tellingly at odds with his attitude to his marriage and family while Norman is an 'angry little man' always happy to point out the fly in anybody's ointment. Marcia is and always has been odd and gets odder still when she is released from the constraints of employment and its forced social contacts until she simply comes to a stop.

I am in my fifties and don't know how this period piece would strike younger readers but it does give a real flavour of the times as well as the personalities. Do these people still exist as types? Undoubtedly, although their context might have changed. (I would like to be a Letty but fear I am a Marcia with dogs replacing milk bottles).

As previous reviewers have stated, there's little plot, no romance and hardly any action - so why read it? Because it's a perfect example of a beautifully-crafted miniature portrait. And you'll love it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harriet BlueStocking on 15 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback
A bittersweet novel about growing older in an England which seems to have almost entirely vanished. Miss Pym's characters are often sad, sometimes eccentric, but always engaging. Anyone who likes gentle humour and nostalgia will like this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pipistrel on 24 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful novel, diving deep into the lives of four people on the verge of retirement. Pym has Jane Austen's ability to paint a richly detailed picture on a small canvas, together with Jane's comic vein. The novel has a tragic dimension in that Marcia is suffering from breast cancer, which is the illness that killed Pym less than 3 years after publication. Most touchingly, Lettie, the most positive of the four characters, ends the book with the thought that "life still held infinite possibilities for change".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sally Morozowska on 4 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm going to suggest to whom this book could be recommended first, as I personally think that you need to be of a similar age to the characters to appreciate what aging actually entails ; to have the relentless ability to look at the sum total of a normal , perhaps limited, average life and still bravely continue to live a life of routines as we all do using what mechanisms we can, to make our lives as best we can. As with all literature that covers content to which one can identify, this is timeless, although relating to very specific microdetail of life in the 50's to 70's. Its a wonderful read because like all timeless literature it shows that you are not alone and for me personally it has the extra interest of being set in London which I knew well at that time.
There appears to be very little fiction currently that covers the angst of aging; infact finding any literature that is more existentialist is is difficult. Having said this I would recommend anyone whose interested in the human condition to read it as you will get out of it whatever your own experience will relate to. A really enjoyable, relaxing read
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