Quartet in Autumn

Barbara Pym
Reading Order: Book 20
Categories: 2019, Stuart Browning
Pages: 193
Suggested By: The Original Manchester Book Group / The Times
Date Started: July 18, 2019
Date Finished: July 23, 2019
Reason Book was Chosen: On July 1st 2018 The Sunday Times produced an article entitled “The Man Booker Prize at 50: do the judges always get it right?” in which Martin Amis discusses if the winner of the prize should have won or f there was another book published that year that should have received the award. Interestingly the Amis argued that only 13 of the 50 books where worthy winners (make of that what you will a link to the article is below). We as a book club decided to use the list to choose the book for discussion at our August meeting. It was unanimously voted that we should read Barbara Pym’s “Quartet in Autumn” published in 1977 which lost out that year to Paul Scott’s “Staying On”. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-man-booker-prize-50-years-winners-martin-amis-9v2ztzp3g
My Thoughts

It was an ok read, but the subject matter was so dull.  I wonder why Pym would want to write about the mundanity of everyday life in this manner and this is a mundane as gets.  The story follows four colleagues (two men and two women) Edwin, Norman, Letty and Marcia who all work in the same office in 1970’s London and who are all reaching retirement age.  The only people they really have in their immediate circle is their co-workers and you definitely get a sense of the loneliness each character feels and their inability to do anything about it.   There’s not enough depth into the history of the characters to understand why they are in the position they are in with no close friends, family or loved ones around.  To be blunt it’s actually really sad.

I can’t really say I enjoyed it, I can even say I’m glad I read it either and it would put me off reading anything else by Pym if they rest of her novels are in a similar vain.

Having read the blurb for Staying On I can’t say I’d be particularly interested in reading that either, and it makes me wonder if 1977 was a particular sparse year for good literature.

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