By (author) Jean Rhys, Introduction by Katie Owen

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  • Format: Paperback | 160 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 194mm x 14mm | 118g
  • Publication date: 11 September 2001
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0141183926
  • ISBN 13: 9780141183923
  • Sales rank: 216,607

Product description

Set in a superficially romantic, between-wars Paris, "Quartet" is a poignant tale of a lonely woman. Set against a background of winter-wet streets, Pernod in smoky cafes and cheap hotel rooms with mauve- flowered wallpaper, Marya tries to make something substantial of her life in order to withstand the unreality of her surroundings. Alone, her Polish husband in prison, she is taken up by an English couple who slowly overwhelm her with their passions. Jean Rhys' first novel is both poignant and disturbingly intimate in its vivid depiction of a woman on her own.

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Author information

Jean Rhys was born in Dominica in 1894. Coming to England aged 16, she drifted into various jobs before starting to write in Paris in the late 1920's. QUARTET was first published as 'Postures' in 1928. Her novels, often portraying women as underdogsout to exploit their sexualities, were ahead of their time and only modestly successful. From 1939 she lived reclusively, and was largely forgotten when she made a sensational comeback with 'Wide Sargasso Sea' in 1966. She died in 1979.

Review quote

If difficulty of subject is to be considered in judging the merit of a novel, Miss Rhys must be accredited with high achievement. Not only does she deal with the most complex personalities, exploring the most intimate recesses of their psychology, but she does so with the directness and certitude of the fine artist. The style, especially of the dialogue, belongs to the new tradition in prose, which shuns elaboration for sharpness and intensity of effect.

Editorial reviews

This is Jean Rhys' first novel (1928), not as strong a book as Good Morning, Midnight (1970, p. 131) but firmer in narrative design than Voyage in the Dark. And even if her heroine, always the same haphazard young woman at the loose end of life, is a little younger and to begin with more hopeful, there are other points of similar recognition: Paris, "The unvarying background. Knowing waiters, clouds of smoke, the smell of drink." - the cafes and little hotels frequented by impermanent drifters, watchers. This time she's Marya who has married the charming if improvident Stephan, now arrested and jailed for selling stolen pictures, leaving her without a centime. She is taken in as a protegee by an English couple, the Heidlers, and quickly becomes a love object for H.J., a hate object for his wife, and the easy victim of both. The story has its own febrile fascination and once again Miss Rhys' dragonfly perceptions skim familiar surfaces (fear, loneliness, abandonment) with a momentary insistence and involvement. (Kirkus Reviews)