“The ruin of a marriage is a trivial thing to the persons not involved. Since Qunetin’s infidelities were discovered, there have been revolutions, earthquakes, hurricanes, acts of terrorism and a worldwide economic crisis, yet as far as the Bredins are concerned, none of these matter.”
“A gloom lies over the world. Only a short while ago it seemed as if they were all on an endless soaring ride up to heaven. Now, they are plummeting down so low that nobody is sure when the fall will stop. Banks have defaulted, businesses have gone bankrupt and millionms have lost their belief in a better future. Everybody is anxious. Some continue to live as they have always have done, or possibly better, but more have seen their income shrivel and their hopes fade.
“Waking with fortitude, living with compromise and sleeping with stress is normal for an architect in Britain. Even during the best of times, Lottie has spent week drawing up plans for projects over which clients have then backtracked, changed their minds and cancelled. Experience has taught her that nothing is ever built without compromise, and yet she had expected better of marriage. For just as we expect sweetness from the milk we first drink, so the child born to a happy marriage is wholly unprepared for disharmony. Lottie had failed to understand what she risked when marrying Quentin; but then waking with optimism, living with laxity and sleeping without self-reproach is normal for a journalist.”
“The sensations of acquiring a home are not dissimilar from thoise elicited by romantic love, not least because the house they bought has been transformed from a shabby rooming house to a place where they were once almost entirely happy.”
“To be a bachelor at twenty is normal, at thirty is sensible, and at forty prudent; but to be single at forty-five smacks of failure. Quentin had never found children interesting until the row of small shoes lined up in the front hall of his friend Ivo Sponge’s house became strangely affecting. The next instant, it seemed, he was gazing into the large brown eyes of his future wife., and talking about wanting a family of his own. Biology, it was all biology – or perhaps it was property.”
“Yet London is also a torment to him. People who once sent him fawning letters asking for work no longer bother to reply when he now pitches ideas to them. He has discovered the truth of the advice to be kind to those you pass on the way up because you will meet them again on the way down…it’s like that moment in a game of Snakes and Ladders where, after shooting triumphantly up one ladder after another, you find the board has become hideously alive with long green and yellow snakes which swallow up your counter no matter how often you roll the dice.”
“The Shed of Doom is what all erring husbands dread. It is built at the bottom of the garden, supposedly as a study or a spare room, but its true purpose is to be the place where a man is banished, to stare at the house on which he pays the mortgage while his ex-wife enjoys the life he can no longer have.”
“The pens shuffle with ewes, their thick, matted winter coats standing up around their long pale faces like ruffs, so that they look like a gathering of women in an old painting. All winter they’ve carried their lambs under their felted fleeces, through the cold dark months of snow and mud. Now, it’s time to drop their burdens.
“Though the barn is quite full, each needs enough space to be alone; for birth, like death, is always a private experience, even for an animal. Sheep, like all herd creatures, do their best to behave as ones, yet even they are solitary as they lamb. How fearful this nakedness is, and how absolute!”
“His father despises him. Hugh has always seen journalism as the lowest form of writing, and although each time Quentin bought himself a new suit or went on holiday abroad, he mentally thumbed his nose at Hugh thinking, Fool, this is what I can afford and you can’t, he can never rid himself of the wish that his father would acknowledge his writings. Did Hugh really thinki that Dickens, Orwell, Virginia Woolf and Evelyn Waugh were slumming when they wrote for newspapers and magazines? Poetry kept you poor and obscure and living in a damp cottage with tiny dirty windows; why not admit that journalism demanded inspiration and talent? Yet these days, nobody remembers a word of anything that Quentin has written, whereas poems of Hugh’s have somehow endured.”