Quartet in Autumn (Picador Classic, 35)

£4.995
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Quartet in Autumn (Picador Classic, 35)

Quartet in Autumn (Picador Classic, 35)

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Price: £4.995
£4.995 FREE Shipping

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One thing I found interesting was how little the character's wartime experiences seemed to impact on their lives in the 1970s. These people lived through the Blitz yet have no worries about post traumatic stress or the possibility of WW III, except for Marcia - it may help explain her tin hoarding. Despite living through such dangerous times they are just as caught up in the small annoyances and everyday problems of life as those of us who have grown up in peacetime. What is wrong with being obsessed with trivia?” wrote Pym on 9 November 1970. “Some have criticized The Sweet Dove for this. What are the minds of my critics filled with? What nobler and more worthwhile things?” 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 For as long as they’ve been working together, the four haven’t given in to the usual human impulse to know and be known. At first there doesn’t seem to be much to know about them; with only one or two shorthand facts apiece it’s a minor challenge to tell them apart. Widower Edwin’s hobby is attending Anglican services; Norman lives off fried food and visits his brother-in-law in hospital; Letty lives in a boarding house and has a friend in the countryside; Marcia has had a mastectomy and hoards tinned food and empty milk bottles.

Barbara Pym has a unique voice, very quiet and subtle, very astute. She is a humorist who gets to the heart of her subject and finds the sadness beneath the laughter. Watch out, she seems to say, because before you realize it, the laugh is on you. Access-restricted-item true Addeddate 2010-02-24 23:59:26 Boxid IA114312 Boxid_2 CH106801 Camera Canon EOS 5D Mark II City New York [etc.] Donor I’m pretty sure that nowhere in Quartet in Autumn does any one of the four refer to any of the others as a friend. So this is the story of Edwin and Norman and Letty and Marcia, an unusual crew doing some unspecified work, sitting together in a room all day, sometimes lunching together at the library or the British Museum, but otherwise not involved in each other’s lives. But what happens in this kind of situation is you are involved, whether you want to be or not.It is definitely written from a 1977 perspective, and I was reminded how long ago that was. But though I did often wonder why this weird book was considered Pym’s best, in the end, if maybe not until the end, I loved it. Their building which also houses the organization for which they work and the room in which they work is within easy walking distance of the British Library and the British Museum, enabling a leisurely visit during a lunch hour. But to Pym. I have vague thoughts of reading this later in the year. It may depend on how bouyant I’m feeling. Not sure I’ll read it if I’m likely to wallow in its mood! Your description of the book (ha – avoiding that ‘review’ word now!) made me think of Anita Brookner’s novels. I read a number of them over a relatively short period some years ago. I came across one very recently and wondered at what had drawn me to them at the time; I certainly wouldn’t choose to read them now. If she’s as bad as I think she is,” Mrs Pope went on, “she won’t notice whether you sent her anything or not. And you are a pensioner -- don’t forget that.”

Quartet in Autumn' is a nostalgic, atmospheric novel that one needs time to appreciate. I mean, it doesn't take a lot of time to read it, but I think the whole beauty of it reveals itself when you finish the book. It is also about the thin but strong bonds that unite people in ways that aren’t always recognized, bonds of little-realized significance, bonds of what might easily — and rightly — be called love. Marcia, in her free time, and she has lots of it, does such mundane and meaningless (at least to me) things as arranging plastic bags in a drawer in her house based on their shapes and sizes. And she kept the plastic bags in a drawer as opposed to leaving them out somewhere in the house because...’there was a note printed on them which read ‘To avoid danger of suffocation keep this wrapper away from babies and children’. They could have said from middle-aged and elderly persons too, who might well have an irresistible urge to suffocate themselves.’ 😯

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I don’t mean that in any ageist way. I am becoming a doddery misfit myself. It’s just true that we can develop a sort of bewildered way of looking at the world, because we don’t fit in like we used to. And some of us are definitely getting quirkier. This is a story about four such characters, two men and two women, all single and living alone. They work together, and are approaching retirement. The parts about the church, particularly Edwin's story line reminded me of a book from a series I liked as a child, but only understood better as an adult. 'The Church Mice at Bay' by Graham Oakley. The Church Mice series is about the many mice and a cat that live in a church. In this book a new hippy vicar comes to the church. The mice, cat and parishioners do not appreciate the changes he makes. Edwin would have hated him! Yes--you’re certainly the centre of attraction today.” But Mr Strong said it so nicely, not in a nasty, sarcastic way, as Norman might have done.

Since Pym can’t use proximity as she did in the first case, where both occurrences of the name “Norman” are separated by only a few words, she makes the transition by putting the phrase “No Visitors” in the same place, in the first sentence of each paragraph to create structural similarity: “If they said “No Visitors” then we can’t very well barge in” and “No visitors? Has she just had an operation then?” I think just a cup of tea…’ There’s something to be said for a cup of tea and a comfortable chat about crematoria.” At the end of the book, Letty tells Norman and Edwin that Marjorie has invited the three of them to join her for a day in the country. She thinks this would be a consolation for the jilted Marjorie, and, though she envisages no romantic developments, enjoys being in a position to supply some male company. She had a rather pink, open face. Young women nowadays didn’t seem to bother much with make-up and even Marcia could see that some would have been improved by it.

Of the four only Letty used the library for her own pleasure and possible edification. She had always been an unashamed reader of novels, but if she hoped to find one which reflected her own sort of life she had come to realize that the position of an unmarried, unattached, ageing woman is of no interest whatever to the writer of modern fiction. Have thought of an idea for a novel based on our office move– all old, crabby characters, petty and obsessive, bad tempered– how easily one of them could have a false breast! But I'd better not write it till I have time to concentrate on it (look what happened to the last). Pym uses Norman’s name to make a transition between Marcia’s disparaging comparison of what Norman would say to what Norman actually does say in his point of view to Edwin as they eat lunch: “not in a nasty sarcastic way as Norman might have done” and “Norman pointed out, as he and Edwin sat in the office finishing their lunch.” (Pym shows great empathy with Marcia by putting the scene in the hospital from her point of view, as she lies dying in bed. Notice how the detail of the way in which Marcia is barely heard from the bed adds poignancy to the scene, without being overly sentimental.)



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