Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym | Book Review

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym published in 1977 (and nominated for the Booker Prize) is a poignant exploration of loneliness.

This is a story of four single people in their 60s: Marcia, Letty, Edwin and Norman who have worked together for several years in an office in Central London doing unspecified clerical work. They don’t socialise together out of work, they don’t have any close relatives, they live alone and lead what one could define as a rather quiet life. Romantic love has never been a part of their lives. Despite their advanced age, two of them still live in rented single rooms.

Barbara Pym is an excellent chronicler of an ordinary and unnoticed life with focus on single elderly people and their fate as they face health problems as well as housing and financial insecurity.

Quartet in Autumn has moved me deeply. It is a thought-provoking character study which portrays an emotional baggage of four characters as they grow old facing isolation and loneliness.

This book also constitutes an interesting commentary on the British society of the 1970s and its attitude towards the ongoing social and cultural changes especially when it comes to treatment of immigrants.

Writing is beautiful, lyrical and multilayered. There is nostalgia and wry humour.

If you love the likes of Anita Brookner, Penelope Fitzgerald or Patrick Modiano, you will also enjoy Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym.

I highly recommend this book.

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