This is my second Barbara Pym Novel, having previously enjoyed Excellent Women.
In Quartet in Autumn, Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia work in an office. What they do is never discussed. However, they are all ‘of a certain age’ and know that when they retire, their small department will close. Although they appear to have little in common otherwise, they all share the same problem: loneliness.
Pym touches on so many issues in this tender volume; growing old, feeling unloved or un-needed, and finding purpose and meaning in life after retirement. She gentle probes her characters lives – uncovering prejudices, foibles, irritations and regrets – without ever judging them. An air of melancholy does pervade this novel, and there is no avoiding the sadness of these characters lives. But there is never despair and the novel has a hopeful conclusion.
I loved this novel. I think Pym has an exceptional ability to peel away the protective layers of her characters, and share their private thoughts with eloquence and perception.
Highly recommended for readers ‘of a certain age’!
Review by Gaby Meares,
Co-Group Coordinator of the Murder on a Monday Reading Group