Quartet in Autumn

Quartet in Autumn

Barbara Pym / Apr 04, 2020

Quartet in Autumn This is the story of four people in late middle age Edwin Norman Letty and Marcia whose chief point of contact is that they work in the same office and they suffer the same problem loneliness Loving

  • Title: Quartet in Autumn
  • Author: Barbara Pym
  • ISBN: 9780525186656
  • Page: 479
  • Format: Hardcover
  • This is the story of four people in late middle age Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia whose chief point of contact is that they work in the same office and they suffer the same problem loneliness Lovingly, poignantly, satirically and with much humour, Pym conducts us through their small lives and the facade they erect to defend themselves against the outside world ThThis is the story of four people in late middle age Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia whose chief point of contact is that they work in the same office and they suffer the same problem loneliness Lovingly, poignantly, satirically and with much humour, Pym conducts us through their small lives and the facade they erect to defend themselves against the outside world There is nevertheless an obstinate optimism in her characters, allowing them in their different ways to win through to a kind of hope Barbara Pym s sensitive wit and artistry are at their most sparkling in Quartet in Autumn An exquisite, even magnificent work of art Observer 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 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 Very funny and keenly observant of the ridiculous as well as the pathetic in humanity Financial Times.

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    About "Barbara Pym"

      • Barbara Pym

        After studying English at St Hilda s College, Oxford, she served in the Women s Royal Naval Service during World War II The turning point for Pym came with a famous article in the Times Literary Supplement in which two prominent names, Lord David Cecil and Philip Larkin, nominated her as the most underrated writer of the century Pym and Larkin had kept up a private correspondence over a period of many years Her comeback novel, Quartet in Autumn, was nominated for the Booker Prize Another novel, The Sweet Dove Died, previously rejected by many publishers, was subsequently published to critical acclaim, and several of her previously unpublished novels were published after her death.Pym worked at the International African Institute in London for some years, and played a large part in the editing of its scholarly journal, Africa, hence the frequency with which anthropologists crop up in her novels She never married, despite several close relationships with men, notably Henry Harvey, a fellow Oxford student, and the future politician, Julian Amery After her retirement, she moved into Barn Cottage at Finstock in Oxfordshire with her younger sister, Hilary, who continued to live there until her death in February 2005 A blue plaque was placed on the cottage in 2006 The sisters played an active role in the social life of the village.Several strong themes link the works in the Pym canon , which are notable for their style and characterisation than for their plots A superficial reading gives the impression that they are sketches of village or suburban life, with excessive significance being attached to social activities connected with the Anglican church in particular its Anglo Catholic incarnation However, the dialogue is often deeply ironic, and a tragic undercurrent runs through some of the later novels, especially Quartet in Autumn and The Sweet Dove Died.


    1. This was recommended to me by various bloggers and certainly lived up to their praise. Originally published in 1977, this was Pym’s seventh novel out of nine; she died in 1980. It’s about four London office workers, all sixty-somethings who are partnerless and don’t have, or at least don’t live with, any immediate family members. We never learn what they do in this office; in fact, Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia don’t seem to be filling much of a need, especially given the fact that t [...]

    2. I don't think she's that underrated actually.(view spoiler)[In 1977 the Times Literary Supplement polled a host of literary notables asking them to name the most underrated writer of the 20th century. Pym was the only author who received more than one vote; Larkin and Lord David Cecil both picked her. (hide spoiler)]

    3. "No meio da vida estamos no meio da morte"Letty, Marcia, Edwin e Norman são quatro sexagenários - duas mulheres e dois homens - que trabalham na mesma empresa. Um é viúvo os outros são solteiros. Vivem sozinhos; dois numa casa própria e dois num quarto alugado. Reservados e solitários, a ligação entre eles é a usual entre colegas de trabalho, pouco conhecendo uns dos outros. Com o aproximar do momento da aposentação, surge a angústia do que fazer de tanto tempo livre, além de vague [...]

    4. “Quartet” is the first of her books written after a hiatus. It was also written after her own breast cancer surgery. It’s much darker than her earlier novels. Her trademark sly humor is still intact though there’s a gallows feel to it. The story is about four 60 something work colleagues, two men and two women, right on the cusp of their retirement. (Pym too had recently left her long time editing job due to ill health.) As always the characters are utterly unique. Norman is an angry man [...]

    5. I enjoyed this story that was more of a character study of four elderly office workers that lived quiet lives in London during the 1970's. Each character had their own unique quirks but ultimately their rigidness turned into a tale of loneliness.

    6. When I first read Quartet in Autumn I think I found it a little sad – veering towards depressing. Maybe this is the kind of book that one needs to be in the right frame of mind for. This time I found I really loved it. Although this novel does seem to be a bit different from other Barbara Pym novels, there are still plenty of Pymisms to be found. This was the novel that was published in 1977 after Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil had both separately and independently of each other, named Bar [...]

    7. Realistic but sad portrayal of four retirement-age people who work together in one office but are not really friends. They are all quirky and lonely people who over time, and because of the death of one of them, seem to become aware that all they have is each other. The end is very optimistic and hopeful, but the book is rather a drudgery of humdrum daily lives. Perhaps because I am at that stage of life, the message hits too close to home. Barbara Pym has the reputation of being a wonderful aut [...]

    8. A look at 4 unmarried people of retirement age in the 1970s, 2 men and 2 women who work together (before the women retire). As I am approaching this age myself, I found some aspects of this a little daunting but I take heart in the fact that I am not like Marcia!!

    9. There's something magnetic about Barbara Pym's prose and her prickly, very private, isolated protagonists. On the book's cover, each of the characters faces away from the centre; indeed, a very superficial reader might leave this book with the impression that the characters don't much like each other. But that would be to mistake their very British reserve for lack of compassion. On the contrary, there is so much compassion in the awkward way that the four retired protagonists connect. Their tho [...]

    10. The 4 characters in this tale are in their 60s, but you'd think they were decades beyond that! I can't tell if Barbara Pym was writing this tongue in cheek or if the 1970s were really so different from today. I really enjoyed the book despite the comments above. In my view, the characters are the reason to read Barbara Pym. But the story is also interesting; the writing is wonderful. This book was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1977. I've found these recurrent themes in the 3 books I've re [...]

    11. Although I can't totally relate with the stage of life that the characters are in, I did find them interesting, sympathetic, and I liked how it showed the different ways in which each character handled life changes and how they approached getting older.

    12. I just re-read this for the second time and , to my surprise, it ended on a more upbeat note than I had remembered. Each character is sensitively portrayed and the manner in which they relate to one another rings true. They both know and care more about each other than they realize. How each person puts meaning into his or her life is written in the understated and clear-eyed Pym manner. There is pathos, tenderness, and humor here and Quartet in Autumn reigns supreme for me over all Pym's other [...]

    13. QUARTET IN AUTUMN. (1978). Barbara Pym. *****. This was Ms. Pym’s first book after being ignored for sixteen years by English publishing houses. She was resurrected after an article appeared in the TLS written by two critics in answer to the question: “Who was the most neglected writer of the past fifty years?” (or words to that effect). They both named Pym. This novel was published soon after that article, and was short-listed for the Booker Prize that year. It is the story of four elderl [...]

    14. A more intense Pym work than ever. Reading Pym is like someone sitting eye to eye with you and talking very honestly about the private thoughts, faults, and wishes of people. No baloney, no highly-built plots, no messiness. Her characters are aggravating, just like people we know. They aren't always attractive or sexy. They age and make mistakes and sometimes cannot get outside of themselves. And they often miss the brass ring, but are still ok in spite of it. And through these characters Barbar [...]

    15. Esse livro estava há anos nas minhas metas e tinha dois grandes motivos para lê-lo: foi indicação de minha amiga skoober Marta, grande leitora que sempre me apresenta livros e autores dos quais nunca ouvi falar. E a autora é uma das preferidas de meu queridinho McCall Smith; é sempre citada em seus livros.A autora inglesa teve dificuldade em publicar seus livros (10 no total) e num suplemento literário foi considerada a escritora mais subestimada do século. Outros críticos comparam seu [...]

    16. I've decided to stop resisting the impulse to give Barbara Pym novels 5 stars, because let's face it, I love them. Despite her trademark lightness and wit, however, this is a fantastically grim and bleak novel. 4 friends -- or rather, colleagues, for they are barely friends -- approach retirement. Hilarious hijinx most decidedly do not ensue. They are difficult people; lonely, yet nervously hostile to foreigners and Black people, and mean-spirited towards each other; searching for intellectual a [...]

    17. Vintage, wonderful Pym, but too close for comfort, as I'm getting up there in years myself. But is 60 is the new 40? Her characters are beautifully drawn, and out of four isolated individuals Pym creates a sort of bittersweetly harmonic symphony with a note of optimism at the end.

    18. What a lovely but sad novel.Barbara Pym has such an eye for detail of the eccentricities of life and human frailties as we approach old age. Told with wit and charm.I loved it!

    19. Fiction - British. Paperback. Purchased at Title Wave Books in Anchorage, Alaska.Unknown to most Americans, I am lucky to have several friends who are fans of Ms. Pym and introduced me to her. Her style of novel is different from more modern novels, subtle, less based on action and technique but focused on a solid plot and well-developed characters. I was surprised to learn that this book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in the UK and was considered Ms. Pym’s comeback novel, unable to get [...]

    20. I was suprised by the following review. Eliza had recommnded this book to me and described it as a "quiet" book especially after The Good Omen. Indeed it was a quiet book but it did whisper to me. It seems Ms. Pym couldn't get the book published. I wonder why? If you've read the book do you have any idea why it wasn't published right away? An interesting aside, the paperback I read was so old it literally fell apart while I was reaing the book. It ended up in little piles in my bedroom (no I'm n [...]

    21. My friend Rebekah recommended Barbara Pym on her blog recently, and as she is a sharp reader with exquisite taste, I had to discover Pym for myself. I had never even heard of Pym, but after reading Quartet in Autumn and Excellent Women I can see why some regard her as the most underrated British author of the 20th century. Quartet in Autumn tells the story of four retirement-age office mates in 1970s London. Marcia, Letty, Edwin, and Norman have little in common other than their shared office sp [...]

    22. Don’t be fooled by any tranquil overtones of the ‘Autumn’ in the title. Quartet had me gasping with shock and astonished laughter at nearly every page. Set in seventies London the book traces the everyday lives of four lonely individuals in the autumn of their years. Pym has managed to write a book that contains barely any likeable characters but that is still a page-turner, and this daring has ensured a work of painstaking (and painful!) observation of human nature. It’s an uncomfortabl [...]

    23. My dad used to say, "Bad news, Good news." So as one of the foursome passes away, will this be good news or bad news to the remaining lonely threesome. This book takes a look at people who live in a small world without too many friends or relatives and how filling up their time in retirement could be a time of apprehension. A short read, moving slowly but deliberately and decisively towards the end goal.

    24. I loved this book. After a slow start I really started to feel for the characters. A sensitive look at their lonely lives struggling to deal with retirement, trying to reach out in their own way, some with more success than others. Although sad I felt there was hope at the end. I will definately be reading more Barbara Pym.

    25. Quartet in Autumn reminded me of Elinor Rigby--the sad isolation and the wierd things the isolated live and do. Its Pym at her most mature and while it has wit it is much darker than most of her work. Probably because she herself was dying of breast cancer.

    26. Quiet, subtle, slow - yet fiercely intelligent and observant. It builds, almost imperceptibly, to a brilliant finale.

    27. As usual Pym is wonderful. This one is rather darker than most of her other novels. This is what Anita Brookner would be like if she had a sense of humor.

    28. This was a fascinating look at four co-workers in the autumn of their lives. Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia are all in their 60's and approaching retirement. They work together as clerks in a nondescript office, but each of them seems very alone. None of them have much of a life outside their jobs and they don't appear to be very close. In fact, they never even go to lunch together. Pym slowly reels out the stories of each of the quartet. Edwin spends a lot of his time monitoring church activit [...]

    29. "'Unreachable inside a room' she may have been, yet there was no sense of that little room becoming an everywhere, in the fantasy of an earlier poet. No fragment of poetry from long ago lingered in Marcia's mind as she lay under a red blanket."

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