The year is 1932, and America is roiling with unrest. Angry WWI veterans, embittered by the ruinous poverty inflicted by the Great Depression, join forces and, calling themselves the Bonus Army, march on Washington to demand payment of the wartime bonus promised them for their service during the war.
Arthur and Douglas Sinclair, an impoverished veteran and his son, make the arduous journey from Kansas to join the march. Alden and Sutton Kelly, the rebellious children of a powerful Washington judge, become involved with the veterans’ struggle, causing an irreparable rift in the Kelly family. When the Bonus march explodes in a violent clash between government and veteran forces, Arthur is falsely accused of conspiracy and disappears. The lives of Douglas, Alden, and Sutton are forever changed—linked inextricably by the absence of Arthur Sinclair.
As these three lives unfold in the wake of the Bonus riots, we are taken to unexpected places—from the underground world of a Soviet spy to Hemingway’s Florida and the hard labour camps of Roosevelt’s New Deal Projects in the Keys; from occultist circles in London to occupied Paris and the eventual fall of Berlin; and finally, to the German prison camp where French composer Olivier Messiaen originally wrote and performed his famous Quartet for the End of Time. Taking us on an unforgettable journey through individual experience and memory against the backdrop of seismic historical events, Quartet for the End of Time is both a profound meditation on human nature and an astonishing literary accomplishment from one of Canada’s most original voices.
Johanna Skibsrud is the award-winning author of two collections of poetry and one short story collection, This Will Be Difficult to Explain. The Sentimentalists, her first novel, was awarded the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada's most prestigious literary award. Originally from Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Skibsrud currently lives in Tucson, Arizona.
“At once a sweeping tale and a deeply layered meditation on the nature of time, justice and agency. . . [Skibsrud] has embedded meaning in terrific turns of plot. And her rendering of the smallest details can be crystalline.” – Macleans - Macleans
“Quartet for the End of Time is a brilliant work of art, and it is brilliant in so many ways—its dense, rich, and immaculate prose, its vivid evocation of a watershed period in American history, its high-stakes political and personal drama, and, above all, its intimate and completely compelling portraits of human beings struggling to do the right thing under ambiguous moral circumstances. This wholly realized book has everything I crave in a work of fiction.” - Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried
“A strange, deeply compassionate, and beautiful work.” - Globe and Mail
"Skibsrud reminds us how family members treat each other during political upheaval - and how war is an extension of domestic policy by other means." - Michael Winter, author of Minister Without Portfolio
"This is that rare novel which brilliantly weaves together a stunning sweep of historical events, with an intimate exploration of human bonds, betrayals, and quiet subterfuges. Working with a deep and intricate attention to the convolutions both of the individual heart and those of World War I and it's aftermath, Skibsrub delivers a tale that is as powerful as it is satisfying." - Vincent Lam, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures
“Mysterious, richly detailed, and wholly original, this symphonic fiction makes emotion palpable, weaving the consequences of acts and emotions into its very structure.” - Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever