Form and Content
Quartet in Autumn follows the lonely lives of four single people in their sixties who work together in a London office as they approach retirement. The novel covers a period of approximately eighteen months, during which the two women (who are the novel’s most developed characters) retire and one of them, Marcia, dies. The novel is episodic in structure, and its point of view moves from individual to individual as each goes about his or her daily round of activity. The four are not friends, although they make conversation in an agreeable enough way during office hours. They never see one another at any other time.
The novel begins in spring, and in an early chapter the four take vacations. Letty stays with her old friend, Marjorie, in the country, but she finds that Marjorie is romantically involved with David Lydell, the local vicar, and she feels left out. Marcia’s holiday treats are strange: a medical checkup, which brings her closer to the orbit of Dr. Strong, the surgeon who performed her mastectomy; and a bus trip to Strong’s house, which she admiringly views from a distance. Norman has no idea of what to do with himself when he is not working and just loafs about his bed-sitting-room. Edwin has a more normal vacation, visiting his daughter and son-in-law, but there are hints that in the future the young couple may take their vacations abroad and Edwin may not be wanted.
Letty had planned to share a cottage with Marjorie after her retirement, but her plans are scuttled when Marjorie and David become engaged. Letty’s life is further disrupted...
(The entire section is 649 words.)