Quartet in Autumn
|Quartet in Autumn|
|1 September 1977|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||224 pp (hardback edition) & 192 pp (paperback edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-333-22778-6 (hardback edition) & ISBN 0-330-32648-1 (paperback edition)|
|LC Class||PZ4.P9965 Qar PR6066.Y58|
Quartet in Autumn is a novel by Barbara Pym, first published in 1977 and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was Pym's comeback novel after fifteen years of publishing rejections, following a successful record as a novelist during the 1950s and early 1960s. As a novel, it represents a departure from her earlier excursions into light comedy, being the story of four office workers on the verge of retirement.
Marcia, Letty, Norman and Edwin all work together in the same office, are all unmarried (Edwin being a widower) and are nearing retirement age. Letty has plans to share a country retreat with her old friend, Marjorie, but her hopes are dashed when Marjorie suddenly announces that she is to marry a clergyman some years younger than herself.
Marcia and Letty retire and both are faced with challenges; Letty suddenly has to move and Marcia has to deal with a loss of routine that was an essential part of her life. Marcia gradually withdraws from the outside world while Letty has to engage with it. Marcia eventually gives up eating and dies in pathetic circumstances. She has unexpectedly left her estate to Norman, in whom she had indulged a brief and secret semi-romantic interest. When Marjorie's fiancé deserts her for a younger widow, Letty has the opportunity to take the country cottage after all. By now she has come to terms with retirement, her world has expanded, and so she does not immediately move. She realizes that she has opportunities to make her own choices. Norman and Edwin play less central roles in the "quartet" as their characters develop in response to the absences and actions of Marcia and Letty. At the end of the book Letty is looking forward to inviting Norman and Edwin to meet Marjorie in the country which would be a huge "opportunity" for the previous urban and parochial quartet (now sans Marcia).
Awards and nominations
The novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.