Review – Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym

quartet

“You’ve retired now?”  Father G. Asked, making conversation with Letty.  “That must be…” he cast about for a word to describe what Letty’s retirement must be… “a great opportunity,” he brought out, all life being nothing so much as a great opportunity.

I started reading this book in January.  Yes, you heard that right, in January.  I have renewed it a total of 28 times.  Now, after all those italics, I have to say, that I have FINALLY FINISHED IT.  At this point, I’m not sure what to say about it.  What can you really say about a book that took you 6 months to finish?  (At only 218 pages).  It was good, I’m sure.  I definitely picked up on the “hopelessness,”  “human dignity” and “wit” that supposedly exists within this small novel, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it.  Another point to make is that this book is about a whole experience of life that I cannot understand, yet.

Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia all work in an office together, all live by themselves and all on the brink of retirement.  They are not friends; just co-workers.  As they retire one-by-one, their lives intersecting (somewhat), it slowly begins to materialize that they are probably more reliant on one another for companionship than they realize.

I guess it’s not necessarily that I didn’t enjoy the novel, so much as I couldn’t really relate to it.  A lot of the characters were quirky and curmudgeons to a fault; they were more like caricatures than realistic characters.  I began to see some of that lift towards the end, but not necessarily enough to be redeeming.  I think this  is one of those books that I will just have to revisit, it doesn’t work for me now, but I could certainly see it being something I appreciate more in the future.

79% – Not the right time for me, but still a witty, but harsh glimpse of life during retirement

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5 thoughts on “Review – Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym

  1. 28 renewals?!? Wow! I think my library has a maximum of 3 renewals… What made you keep on with it rather than just returning it?

    I have only read one Pym novel (not this one) and had similarly mixed feelings about it. I do see what you mean about the characters sometimes feeling like caricatures, and I think this is definitely one of those authors for whom you must be in the right mindset. I wasn’t expecting “No Fond Return of Love” to be so satirical and campy, which was quite jarring at first. Once I got over that, I enjoyed it more.

    A while back I bought an anthology that has 3 of her novels in it (not sure if this is one of them), so I clearly intend to read more of her at some point.

    1. My library is my best friend. Not only do they let you renew indefinitely, but if you get a fine above $25 (which has only happened to me once!) you only have to pay back $10 and they forgive your fine.

  2. I’m planning to read this soon, so am sad to see it took you so long to finish – I think I’d have given up long before you. I only get 2 renewals, so it is lucky I own my own (very battered) copy.

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