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Quartet in Autumn: Complete & Unabridged (Isis)

4.2 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Isis; Unabridged edition (Dec. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1850895538
  • ISBN-13: 978-1850895534
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 16.7 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,965,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, 1977. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 500 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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition
"The position of the unmarried, unattached, ageing woman is of no interest whatever to the writer of modern fiction." Pym contradicts this belief of one of her own characters in her novel "Quartet in Autumn".

It focuses on the lives of four characters in their sixties who have worked together for years in an office. They have never socialised out side of work hours and there are gaping holes in their knowledge of each other - because they keep things to themselves, and it would not be polite to ask. Marcia has had an operation, but only Lettie knows it was a mastectomy, and only Letty knows that Marcia has a crush on her surgeon.

From the outside it seems that their lives are quite dull and uneventful. They don't really like the company of others, and are not able to communicate their loneliness. Often being around someone is irritating for them and they prefer to be alone.

No-one really knows what their jobs entail, and when Marcia and Letty retire, they are not replaced, in fact the whole department is due to be phased out, leaving them feeling insignificant. They become cut off from one another.

The main theme of the novel is considering whose responsibility it is to care for those who are alone and incapable of caring for themselves. It is also about the awkwardness of inviting colleagues to become friends, the propriety which prevents it, and the realisation that family is who you choose to invite into your life, not just blood relatives.

The main characters share family sized jars of coffee and family sized tins of biscuits in the office. They are the closest acquaintances that they have, yet they don't see themselves as friends. They are alone, together.
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