Book

Anna Enquist

Quartet

A suspenseful blend of music and social criticism that builds towards a startling finale

In her latest novel, Anna Enquist delivers her own unique take on thrillers. While incorporating her recurring themes such as classical music and the loss of loved ones, she chips away at the barrier that separates the well-behaved cultural elite from the harshness of reality until a cruel denouement is the only possible outcome.

The intimate collaboration within a string quartet forms a framework for relation­ships to develop. Enquist interweaves these emotional entanglements with a gripping plot and scathing social criticism. She is uncompromising in her condemnation of short-sighted local politics, destructive cultural policy and, above all, the power struggles being played out within the healthcare system.

A school trip that ended in a nightmare: general practitioner Caroline and her husband Jochem, a restorer of musical instruments, have lost their sons, aged 10 and 12, in a bus crash. Caroline has yet to come to terms with their deaths. She is unable to talk about the tragedy, deter­mined to somehow keep her boys ‘whole’ in her mind’s eye. At the doctor’s surgery, she works alongside Heleen, a committed idealist who belongs to a writing club that corresponds with prisoners. Together with Hugo, the director of a music centre that has fallen into disuse, the four form a string quartet that plays together every week on Hugo’s houseboat.

This story is interwoven with touching scenes that centre on former cello teacher Reinier van Aalst, too frail to leave his house and afraid of being admitted to a nursing home. Out of necessity he relies on the help offered by a Moroccan boy who lives in the neighbourhood. Reinier gradually overcomes his mistrust and discovers that the boy is motivated by love of music and keen to learn. A musi­cian herself, Enquist writes about musical nuances with astounding clarity, commu­nicating what it is like to make music together and what it means to perform a composition.

Enquist adds a deeper layer to this intricately balanced psychological novel by introducing elements traditionally associated with the thriller. The result is a socially aware, musical composition with a startling finale. She shows that danger can be concealed just a heartbeat away and that the best of intentions can usher in disaster. For ultimately, it is the well-meaning idealist Heleen who inadvert­ently brings tragedy upon the quartet.

What does Enquist add to the thriller genre? Original themes and a wonderful way with words […] A sprightly and pleasing crossover between a literary novel and thriller.

NRC Handelsblad

Enquist is peerless at creating and describing emotional worlds. […] a fine book […] classic Enquist: extraordinary, sensitive and compelling.

De Groene Amsterdammer

Constructed with pinpoint precision in increasingly insistent passages, all the elements lock together before spiralling into a spine-chilling climax.

De Limburger

Anna Enquist

Anna Enquist (b. 1945) is one of the most popular writers in the Netherlands. She trained in piano at the academy of music in The Hague and at the same time studied psychology in Leiden. When she made her debut as a poet in 1991 with the collection Soldatenliederen (Soldiers’ Songs), for which…

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Details

Kwartet (2014). Fiction, 269 pages.
Words: 67,000

Publisher

De Arbeiderspers

Spui 10
NL - 1012 WZ Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 760 72 10

E-mail:
j.spooren@singeluitgeverijen.…
Website:
http://www.arbeiderspers.nl

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