A viral Book Offshore published On the Battersea Reach of the Thames a mixed bag of the slightly disreputable the temporarily

A viral Book Offshore published 2020 On the Battersea Reach of the Thames, a mixed bag of the slightly disreputable, the temporarily lost, and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the great river s tides Belonging to neither land nor sea, they cling to one another in a motley yet kindly society There is Maurice, by occupation a male prostitute, by happenstance a receiver of stoOn the Battersea Reach of the Thames, a mixed bag of the slightly disreputable, the temporarily lost, and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the great river s tides Belonging to neither land nor sea, they cling to one another in a motley yet kindly society There is Maurice, by occupation a male prostitute, by happenstance a receiver of stolen goods And Richard, a buttoned up ex navy man whose boat dominates the Reach Then there is Nenna, a faithful but abandoned wife, the diffident mother of two young girls running wild on the waterfront streets.It is Nenna s domestic predicament that, as it deepens, draws the relations among this scrubby community together into ever complex and comic patterns.An alternative cover edition for this ISBN can be found here. Popular Book Offshore An exquisite little novel in which not much happens until the end, and yet, due to storms of all kinds, the whole world of each protagonist changes irrevocably. Flux, Transition, Contrast, Stagnation "Reality seemed to have lost its accustomed hold, just as the day wavered uncertainly between night and morning."Everyone lives between land and water, but each is also caught in some other dichotomy: childhood or adulthood; togetherness or separation; comfort or poverty; in or out of love; life or death; artistry or manual labour; dreams or cold reality. "Decision is torment for anyone with imagination... [because] you multiply the things you might have done and now never can". But that can lead to paralysis.Parallels in my LifeI don't relate to the specific circumstances, and it’s set before I was born, but the paralysis of indecision, when torn between two thoughts or situations is something I often struggle with. Sometimes it leads to an impulsive decision (which I may or may not regret), other times I try to pass the decision to someone else, or just avoid making it altogether. I feel I should be able to learn from this beautiful book, but it suggests diagnosis (which I'd already worked out), but no prescription. And that's fine. Setting and AtmosphereIt is set in "the Reach", a small community of barge-dwellers in London, around 1962. The houseboats are permanently moored; their movement is limited to bobbing up and down on the tide.The residents are very much a community, and yet they have almost nothing in common, other than the fact they are all adrift (even the cat), living in a never-world between land and water - literally, and in a more profound, psychological sense."The barge-dwellers, creatures neither of firm land nor water would have liked to be more respectable than they were... but a certain failure, distressing to themselves, to be like other people, caused them to sink back, with so much else that drifted or was washed up."It vividly conjures the vicissitudes of the sights and sounds of the water and weather, aided by a splattering of boaty jargon. "The river's most elusive hours, when darkness lifts off darkness, and from one minute to another the shadows declare themselves as houses or craft at anchor."Characters"Was there not, on the whole of Battersea Reach, a couple, married or unmarried, living together in the ordinary way?" All the characters are Characters. As are the five boats. In fact, tradition dictates that owners are addressed by the name of their boat, though that doesn't happen all the time, and one owner thwarts it by changing the name of his boat to match his own name. The main characters are Nenna (only 32, but with daughters Martha, 12, and Tilda, 6); Maurice, a young gay man making ends meet as a prostitute; Willis, an old marine painter, whose boat is in need of sprucing up; boat-proud Woodrow (Woodie); and Richard, a natural leader, ex-navy, now working in insurance, with the biggest, smartest boat. All have troubles of some sort, though Nenna's are most evident. She's depressed and has other vague mental health issues. When she's alone, her thoughts "took the form of a kind of perpetual magistrates' hearing", perpetually having to defend her action and inaction regarding her marriage. Meanwhile, she is over-reliant on her daughters, who no longer attend school. Her "character was faulty, but she had an instinct to see what made other people unhappy". Tilda is perhaps the least convincing character, which is a shame, as it could be fixed by making her 10, rather than 6. Growing up in the Reach, she is understandably fascinated by and knowledgeable about the river. She "had the air of something aquatic, a demon from the depths", and "respected the water and knew that one could die within sight of the Embankment". But her language and insight don't always sound right: "Do you think Ma's mind is weakening?" and "It's not the kind who inherit the earth... They get kicked in the teeth". In contrast, Martha is "armed at all points against the possible disappointments of her life, conscious of the responsibilities of protecting her mother and sister, worried a the gaps in her education... she had forgotten for some time the necessity for personal happiness."Plot Summary(view spoiler)[Nenna often chats long into the night with Maurice, but there is a frisson between her and Richard. Willis' barge (Dreadnaught) sinks, though he escapes, and is put up by Woodie. Eventually, Nenna plucks up courage to visit her husband, Edward. He's a wastrel, recently returned from a failed attempt to make money in South America, and won't come to the boat. (Meanwhile, Martha gets friendly with a 16-year old German, Heinrich, staying for 24 hours, as a friend of a friend of Nenna's sister.) She hoped to spend the night and win him back, but things don't go well, and she walks home, where Richard is waiting (his wife, Laura, has recently left him properly) and takes her out in a dinghy, before returning to the Reach. We later discover they did go into a cabin together. Meanwhile, Laura's wealthy sister is over from Canada, and wants to take her and the girls to start a new life there. But Richard is attacked by Harry, an acquaintance of Maurice (who uses Maurice's boat to store stolen goods) and is severely injured. His wife comes back to take care of him. Meanwhile, Edward comes looking for Nenna, but ends up drinking with Maurice, before trying to board Nenna's barge (she's not in, because of the storm) and possibly falling into the cold and turbulent waters.(hide spoiler)]Then it ends! I like untidy, open endings, but this was SO open, I was aghast. (view spoiler)[Do Edward and Maurice survive? Does Richard stay with Laura? Do Nenna and the girls go to Canada, and if not, do she and Richard have a chance, or even she and Edward? Will Harry be caught, and if so, what are the implications for Maurice (if he lived)? What about the homeless and penniless Willis - he surely can't go on living with Woodie? (hide spoiler)]Quotes* "That crucial moment when children realise that their parents are younger than they are."* The advantages of youth, "Tilda cared nothing for the future, and had, as a result, a great capacity for happiness." Also, "Her heart didn't rule her memory... she was spared that inconvenience."* A petty criminal "had no expression, as though expressions were surplus to requirements."* "Tenderly responsive to the self-deception of others, he was unfortunately too well able to understand his own."* "Martha bruised so easily. A princess, unknown to all about her, she awaited the moment when these bruises would reveal her heritage."* "Many enterprises in Chelsea which survived entirely by selling antiques to each other."* A man, propositioning a woman on a street, "smelled of loneliness".* "The kind of man who has two clean handkerchiefs on him at half past three in the morning."* "She would go with him to the end of the world if his outboard motor was always going to start like that." ;)* A young German (ex) aristocrat had "an upbringing designed to carry him through changes of regime and frontier, possible loss of every worldly possession... had made him totally self-contained and able with the sunny smile and formal handshake of the gymnast to set almost anybody at their ease."* "The ship's cat was in every way appropriate for the Reach. She habitually moved in a kind of nautical crawl... Through years of attempting to lick herself clean, for she had never quite lost her self-respect, Stripey had become as thickly coated with mud inside as out. She was in a perpetual process of readjustment... to tides and seasons... The resulting uncertainty as to whether she was coming or going had made her, to some extent, mentally unstable."More Fitzgerald?Given how much I loved this, I was excited to pick up The Blue Flower (see my review HERE). It couldn't have been more different. I had to force myself to finish it. Nevertheless, this was so good, I will give Fitzgerald another chance. One day. And there is a growing tide of support among my GR friends for The Bookshop, which - apart from its bookish appeal - sounds much closer to this.

About Author

  1. Penelope Fitzgerald was an English novelist, poet, essayist and biographer In 2008, The Times included her in a list of The 50 greatest British writers since 1945 In 2012, The Observer named her final novel, The Blue Flower, as one of the ten best historical novels Fitzgerald was the author of nine novels Her novel Offshore was the winner of the Booker Prize A further three novels The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels also made the shortlist.She was educated at Wycombe Abbey and Somerville College, Oxford university, from which she graduated in 1938 with a congratulatory First.


Offshore Comment

  1. An exquisite little novel in which not much happens until the end, and yet, due to storms of all kinds, the whole world of each protagonist changes irrevocably Flux, Transition, Contrast, Stagnation Reality seemed to have lost its accustomed hold, just as the day wavered uncertainly between night and morning Everyone lives between land and water, but each is also caught in some other dichotomy childhood or adulthood togetherness or separation comfort or poverty in or out of love life or death ar [...]

  2. I can t rate a book so beautifully written with just one star, so two But if I was rating it on the interesting plot, the fascinating characters I wanted to know about, the unusual setting of houseboats on the Thames or just sheer enjoyment of passing a few hours in another world, I would have given it 1 star which equals boring book about people apart from the children, I liked them, wild little things that they were I couldn t care less about.I have read about three other of Penelope Fitzgera [...]

  3. This was one of those books that slowly crept up on me, caught hold and didn t let go I grew to care about these people and, silly me, even about their boats Everyone and everything in this story is living on the edge of a relationship, of the land or the water, of reality, of childhood or adulthood, of wealth or abject poverty, of physical destruction A book that s hard to describeI m very glad I read it.I came to read this book because it was selected as the Constant Readers classic choice for [...]

  4. When I was a child, I occasionally watched a TV show, familiar to most British people of my generation, about two puppets who lived on a canal barge called Ragdoll, which seemed homely, safe and jolly Most people only set foot on a boat for the purpose of pleasure and so imagine life on a barge to be sheer, uninterrupted delight I have always been drawn to water, and even lived at sea for a while I was not happy for other reasons, but I was happy to be at sea But, hopelessly addicted to warmth a [...]

  5. As some of you may know, a few years ago I set myself the challenge of reading all the books that had ever won the booker prize I had at that point already read several of them, and so it seemed a fairly achievable list although I admit there are a few on the list that I don t fancy much There was no reason for my doing this I don t believe that books that win big prizes are necessarily any worthy than any others I do however find it fascinating each year when the Booker long list and short lis [...]

  6. This is a book of ambivalence, indecision, grayness and beauty, ebb and flow, of living in between That liminal uncertainty seeps through the whole book , says her biographer Hermione Lee The you look, the you find these examples of the liminal zones They lived neither on land nor water Nessa was neither Canadian nor English To decide or not, for when you decide, you multiply the things you might have done and now never can Nessa is half in love with her husband, the daughter Martha is half ch [...]

  7. I felt like I was on a bus ride eavesdropping on multiple conversations, each interesting and incomplete You may not know what will happen to these people the precocious daughters, their mother who s emotionally compromised, the responsible man, the intuitive man, and the romantically clueless man but you ve had a glimpse of what they re about, their eccentricities Despite its short length, you don t end up feeling short changed Part of the appeal for me is the setting I knew the streets and bri [...]

  8. I had a really hard time getting into this book I didn t understand some of the language used to describe things and I didn t get what it was about Then I saw in another review that Fitzgerald intended that this was a novel about liminality What, you say I saw that it was a stage in a situation where old forms have dissolved, but new forms have not yet taken shape From During the liminal stage, normally accepted differences between the participants, such as social class, are often de emphasized [...]

  9. Penelope Fitzgerald spent several years living on a barge on Battersea Reach of the Thames River when her family had financial difficulties Those experiences including the sinking of their boat served as the inspiration for Offshore A Novel, a short spare novel that won the Booker Prize in 1979.The book has wonderful characterizations of a group of misfits living on the houseboats The barge dwellers, creatures neither of firm land nor water, would have liked to be respectable than they were.But [...]

  10. Once, I embarked on a project to read all the Man Booker Prize winners, and didn t get very far I started at the beginning and started making assumptions, like all Booker Prize winners are about the empire It is books like this winner, 1979 and Hotel du Lac winner, 1984 that prove me wrong And since I ve read them closely together I can see some similarities a cast of characters in a specific place that dictates or allows for some of the behavior.I liked it very much, but was distracted with fam [...]

  11. A wonderful, short work, superficially simple but multilayered with many alluded to themes underneath, and populated with quirky characters who don t quite fit into London society they don t live on land, nor exactly at sea either, but on a barge community permanently moored in the Thames It s set in the early sixties, when nearby Chelsea was at the heart of swinging London Fitzgerald s writing here at least, this being the first of hers that I ve read is witty and pokes gentle fun at her charac [...]

  12. Took me a while to get into this book, not sure why, but when I did and it all clicked I was enchanted The chapter that did it was the one where Nenna goes to see her estranged husband in north London, an unsuccessful tryst, and loses her way and her shoes and money on the way back She has a near miss with a predatory man or maybe he s just lonely before a cheery taxi driver gives her a lift back for free to the boat where she lives with her daughters, and there s an unexpected but pleasant end [...]

  13. Offshore To Be or not to Be che mena il vento, e che batte la pioggia, e che s incontran con si aspre lingue whom the wind drives, or whom the rain beats, or those who clash with such bitter tongues Canto XI,Inferno, Dante AlighieriEpigraph, Offshore There isn t one kind of happiness, there s all kinds Decision is torment for anyone with imagination When you decide, you multiply the things you might have done and now never can Nenna James, Offshore, by Penelope FitzgeraldOffshore, First Ed Harpe [...]

  14. There will always be a point in time when each of us is cast adrift into another world, whether it be a new address on land, or in this book either from a moored barge to land or from a moored barge out to sea There is an old saying that in stories, only two things happen in the beginning of said story someone comes to town, or someone leaves town Here, Fitzgerald switches things around and tells us, up front, who might be going where, and why I enjoyed the economy of words demonstrated here in [...]

  15. Right from the beginning, several interesting, eccentric characters are introduced, and they live in an intriguing, unusual place, houseboats on the Thames So from the beginning, the stage is set for an engrossing novel by a prestigious author But for me at least, the book fails to deliver in many ways I say for me at least because the novel is praised on , and it won the Booker Prize in 1979 The shortcomings The plot is obscure and thin, close to nonexistent Though the relationships among the c [...]

  16. Penelope Fitzgerald is one of those writers whose books I always think I m going to like and then find out that I just don t A few years ago, in a crazed fit of consumption mostly induced by the pretty covers , I bought several of her books And every so often, I read one of them and confirm that I m not a fan The latest Fitzgerald novel I read was Offshore, since it promised to be quite short And although I found some of the characters quite interesting particularly the two girls , the novel its [...]

  17. I get it, that Penelope Fitzgerald writes wonderfully subtle prose with this sort of economy and restraint that s like a virtuoso NOT playing notes, but the plot of this one just made it dull and dragging for me Don t see why this won the Booker I probably say that too often to keep reading Booker books, but I m on a roll, and I do what I want.

  18. This is an odd little book, but one that is very compelling Really, this book should not work there is an omnipresent narrator the book is written in the third person and one of the narrator s comments about how the boutiques of London would all have changed entirely after a couple of years destroyed the mood for me almost entirely The advice of writing books is to have nothing happen that doesn t move the story forward, but we have Heinrich van Furstenfeld s sudden, short appearance I just coul [...]

  19. Other reviewers have spent some good ink on this, so I ll just let their voices stand As for me one word Bleh oh, and a few words Booker Prize Really What was Booker smoking at the time

  20. Engossingly sagacious in observance and unremitting in economical prose, Offshore is a sententious written work of art that owes its eloquence to its timeless and picturesque narration as well as its breakneck character development Like Hemmingway, the late Penelope Fitzgerald carefully chose her diction, framed it beautifully and perspicuously articulated it Rest assured, readers, there is no verbiage or cluttered wording in this book each word, sentence, has a clearly defined purpose Her phras [...]

  21. This is a very short book of a novella, and not particularly plot driven It took me a little bit to get used to the writer s style but after the adjustment, I quite enjoyed it The characters were colorful and nuanced, and the writing very compact and evocative A favorite passage Decision is torment for anyone with imagination When you decide, you multiply the things you might have done and now never can If there s even one person who might be hurt by a decision, you should never make it They te [...]

  22. What a delightfully quirky little novel about a bunch of odd folks living on houseboats on the Thames in London With her unusual descriptions and withholdings, Fitzgerald keeps you guessing in the most enigmatic of ways These characters are ambivalent, indecisive, in between, and unforgettable It was my first by her based on a chapter of her own life, and apparently one of her best won the Booker in 1979 , it completely charmed me.

  23. I ve previously read and very much admired Penelope Fitzgerald s novels The Blue Flower review show , The Gate of Angels review show and The Bookshop review show But for all the critical attention, and award nominations, these received, it was Offshore that won her the Booker Prize in 1979 Offshore is set in the rather eccentric world of houseboats in Battersea Reach, and is, like The Bookshop, based on her own experience of doing so as a child From page 1, she sketches the world and cast of cha [...]

  24. Penelope, oh Penelope I m not sure I know how to explain this But, please, let me try once for all.Welle thing is that I m afraid there is something missing between us Something which is left untold, unwritten, unread Something that doesn t quite fit in the whole picture of a perfect writer reader relationship My impression, Penelope, is that you keep most of your thoughts and emotions for yourself There s a distance between you and me that I perceive and that I cannot accept It s like reading a [...]

  25. I told myself that this was the year that I would read all of the Booker Prize winners including those I ve read at times in that past Well, here we are at the end of the first quarter and I ve read exactly two of the 44 prize winning books I also have to admit that both of these are among the shortest of the winners I loved Penelope Lively s Moon Tiger so I figured it would be sensible to read another Penelope, Penelope Fitzgerald, in an attempt to catch up a bit Offshore was less satisfying th [...]

  26. So my book club works through Booker Prize winners, which are probably the most literary novels I get to experience, and every now and again or at least 50% of the time I ll come across one that I just don t get.Don t misunderstand, I read the words, and a couple of the scenes stood out brilliantly and I haven t read something with quite as an original setting as Offshore.However the plot was of a meander through the lives of the characters, than a whoa to go story, which is not my preference E [...]

  27. Here again Fitzgerald produces a rabbit out of a battered old hat, using remnants of her own painfully curious lifestyle to produce an elegant bathetic story of a group of castaways adrift on the Thames at Battersea Literally battered by the sea the characters in Fitzgerald s novel drift on the ebb and flow of the treacherous Thames tides on the periphery of the so called swinging S8xtie towards an indefinite future The story moves towards the floodtide with many precursors of disaster and a sav [...]

  28. This was the first novel by Penelope Fitzgerald I have read and as a winner of the Booker prize, I had to check it out I enjoyed the writing style enormously, it is about a cast of characters that live on the Battersea Reach on the Thames This includes Maurice a male prostitute, Richard and Laura the only ones with any money and Nenna and her two children Martha and Tilda who I absolutely loved Wise beyond their years the two children often miss school to rummage around in the mud for treasures [...]

  29. Really wanted to like it It had 3 stars with a possibility of a fourth until the abrupt non ending I don t need my stories to have neat little resolutions, but there has to be some kind of conclusion There is a lot of wit in here and I liked the world Fitzgerald creates, but there is a sense of the author is not fully committed to the story.

  30. I liked this even the 2nd time around, this time in audio The narrator did a great job of bringing out both the humor and pathos The concept of liminality struck me even strongly than when I originally read this review show I think I relate I love dawn and dusk than day night, spring and fall better than summer winter, I was a contract employee getting all the benefits of affiliation without having to be an employee, I could go on With that said, I think this book is better read for the first [...]

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