Quartet in Autumn

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Quartet in Autumn is a novel by Barbara Pym, first published in 1977 and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was Pym's comeback novel after fifteen years of publishing rejections, following a successful record as a novelist during the 1950s and early 1960s. As a novel, it represents a departure from her earlier excursions into light comedy, being the story of four office workers on the verge of retirement.

Plot summary

Marcia, Letty, Norman and Edwin all work together in the same office, are all unmarried (Edwin being a widower) and have all reached retirement age. Letty, the "heroine" of the book, has plans to share a country retreat with her old friend, Marjorie, but her hopes are dashed when Marjorie suddenly announces that she is to marry a clergyman some years younger than herself. All four find retirement difficult to cope with, but the effects are most noticeable on the eccentric Marcia, who gradually withdraws from the outside world, gives up eating, and eventually dies in pathetic circumstances, unexpectedly leaving her estate to Norman, in whom she had indulged a brief and secret romantic interest. When Marjorie's fiancé deserts her for a younger widow, Letty has the opportunity to take the country cottage after all, but by now she has come to terms with retirement. At the end of the book, she is considering whether to introduce Edwin and Norman to Marjorie in the hope of matchmaking.

Awards and nominations

The novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

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