Quartet is Rhys' first novel, a novel with a key, autobiographical but thinly veiled by a façade of fiction. Her husband leaves her for jail, and she finds herself taken in by a couple who seem to rule the scene of 1920s Paris society. You feel the allure, confusion, and independence of her youth as she becomes embroiled in their couplehood. The characters form a ever-shifting love square, rectangle or rhombus, with her as the 1st, the wife the 2nd, the husband the 3rd, and her imprisoned husband the 4th.— Angelina
“[Quartet’s] abiding power arises from [Jean Rhys’s] ability to convey the complex vectors of desire and repulsion that move between the characters, distorted by the intractable demands of convention, even in this supposedly liberal bohemian society.” —from the introduction by Claire Messud
Quartet, Jean Rhys’s first novel, launched her literary career in the late 1920s, and today remains an incisive, sinister tale of love and obsession.
After her husband, Stephan, is arrested, Marya finds herself destitute in Paris. With nowhere else to turn, she accepts the hospitality of an English couple living on the fringes of the artistic world. Yet as Marya is drawn inexorably into their universe, she becomes entangled in a bizarre sexual and psychological relationship that frightens even as it fascinates her—and as the date of Stephan’s release from prison draws near, Marya’s new life splits apart at the seams.