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Quartet [Paperback]

Jean Rhys
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 April 1973
The story of a woman on the edge caught in the stranglehold between her lover and his wife. When her husband is released from prison, the situation explodes.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (26 April 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140036105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140036107
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 10.7 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,378,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jean Rhys was born in Dominica in 1890, the daughter of a Welsh doctor and a white Creole mother. She came to England when she was sixteen and then drifted into a series of jobs - chorus girl, mannequin, artist's model - after her father died.

She began to write when the first of her three marriages broke up. She was in her thirties by then, and living in Paris, where she was encouraged by Ford Madox Ford, who also discovered D. H. Lawrence. Ford wrote an enthusiastic introduction to her first book in 1927, a collection of stories called The Left Bank. This was followed by Quartet (originally Postures,, 1928), After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (1930), Voyage in the Dark (1934) and Good Morning, Midnight (1939). None of these books was particularly successful, perhaps because they were decades ahead of their time in theme and tone, dealing as they did with women as underdogs, exploited and exploiting their sexuality. With the outbreak of war and subsequent failure of Good Morning, Midnight, the books went out of print and Jean Rhys literally dropped completely from sight. It was generally thought that she was dead. Nearly twenty years later she was rediscovered, largely due to the enthusiasm of the writer Francis Wyndham. She was living reclusively in Cornwall, and during those years had accumulated the stories collected in Tigers are Better-Looking.

In 1966 she made a sensational reappearance with Wide Sargasso Sea, which won the Royal Society of Literature Award and the W. H. Smith Award in 1966, her only comment on the latter being that 'It has come too late'. Her final collection of stories, Sleep It Off Lady, appeared in 1976 and Smile Please, her unfinished autobiography, was published posthumously in 1979. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1966 and a CBE in 1978.

Jean Rhys, described by A. Alvarez as 'one of the finest British writers of this century', died in 1979.

Product Description


If difficulty of subject is to be considered in judging the merit of a novel, Miss Rhys must be accredited with high achievement. Not only does she deal with the most complex personalities, exploring the most intimate recesses of their psychology, but she does so with the directness and certitude of the fine artist. The style, especially of the dialogue, belongs to the new tradition in prose, which shuns elaboration for sharpness and intensity of effect. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jean Rhys is the author of Wide Sargasso Sea and other novels. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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First Sentence
IT WAS ABOUT half-past five on an October afternoon when Mayra Zelli came out of the Cafe Lavenue, which is a dignified and comparatively expensive establishment on the Boulevard du Montparnasse. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forget Me Knots 13 Nov 2002
Quartet was Jean Rhys' first novel. It is the story of Marya, a British expatriate living in Paris in the early part of the 20th century. She is acutely self-conscious and yet utterly incapable of changing her life to achieve happiness. Her life revolves around two men: Stephan, her vague Polish husband and HJ, a married British ex-pat who is extremely social and active in the arts. Marya's life has been pared down to essentials: dining, drinking, reading and waiting for her husband to return. When she finds Stephan has been unexpectedly arrested her attachment to him is disturbed. Craving affection and financial security, she desperately attempts to discover why Stephan has been arrested and how she can stay in contact with him. However, she quickly takes up with HJ and his wife, Lois. Her emotions become dangerously tangled between the two. Meandering through defeat after defeat entirely unsatisfied and pining for the money to pay for her rent and a glass of brandy, she ultimately has to face the consequences of her love affair. Marya is vaguely dissatisfied and compulsively tragic. In her life which closely parallels Rhys' own, she finds no remission for the terribly existential fact of life.
In this novel Rhys subtly satirizes her affair with Ford Madox Ford and the life she led with him in Paris. This time of great artistic innovation is reduced to the bare facts of the debased livelihood of the expatriates: their drinking and intertwining sexual affairs. Rhys is unremittingly spare in her emotional honesty. Her prose are hollowed out just as the main character's personality is hollowed out. There is nothing tender about this fictitious recreating. It is brutal, just as Rhys' vision of life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classy and Sophisticated 8 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book manages to be so many things at once. It has a classy, sophisticated surface and style that seems to mask the desperation and helplessness of the main character, Marya. Set in bohemian Paris in the 1920's, it is filled with images of smoking chorus girls, endless glasses of brandy in seedy bars, eating in restaurants every night and people living in hotels. I loved that aspect of the text as it really evokes the time perfectly and subtly.

However, what is even more striking about this text is the depiction of this world as a dangerous and dark time to be a woman without money or family. You are isolated from the community if you do anything considered to be improper, yet how can you behave properly and make any money? Marya's husband is an enigma from the start, and seems to be untrustworthy and ruthless judging by an early story he tells about Napolean's sword. When he is imprisoned, Marya is left absolutely destitute and to the mercy of a couple who take her in and impose upon her what they believe is an acceptable way to act, revealing the cruelty that underpinned the 1920's French society.

It is also a feminist novel, showing the helplessness, and perceived helplessness, of women in Marya's situation, of whom there were thousands. Poor and without connections, they could be used by the wealthy for their own pleasure, or by men for other pleasures, without any way to protect themselves. Then, if they did act in a way deemed 'unseemly' they were extradited from society and snubbed by anyone who might be able to help them. So what can they do? Become prostitutes? Marya, who finds herself in a similar situation, feels desperately unhappy and depressed, yet can tell no-one of her troubles due to societal convention.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten book 27 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I was younger this was one of those books I wanted to read. But had forgotten all about it. Recently television has been bringing out dramtised versions of this era. That is why I bought and read it.
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