Elegiac in style, helter-skelter in structure. How to describe this book? Somewhat like a diorama depicting a half-forgotten place and time -- a backwater in more than one sense. Or perhaps a peek into a family picture album (not a conventional family but rather a motley collection of marginalized people for whom the group constitute a surrogate family). One could hardly think of a more unique setting, a world suspended between land and water. The arc of these people's lives is also in a state of suspension; their apartness from their contemporary Londoners pervades the narrative at every turn, as does the ephemeral nature of their existence. While the river is their domain, it is also gradually consuming the vessels in which they abide.
For me, the most engaging character was the resourceful, self-possessed eleven-year-old Martha who "had forgotten for some time the necessity for personal happiness".
A short novel about "bohemians" living on barges on Battersea Reach in London in the 1960s. The children are especially amusing and well done.
This is a good little read. Quick. Easy. And with some very quirky and interesting characters. Nicely done.
Full review here: http://www.671books.net/fiction/offshore/
"Offshore" by Penelope Fitzgerald was a novel I really liked. Set amongst a - somewhat - claustrophobic cast of quaint people living on near-derelict boats on the Thames within London, the story unfolded gradually and naturally. My only complaint is to nitpick and say that the 6 year-old and 12 year-old girls behaved as if they were older. I would have put them at 11 and 14 years old. And the Austrian boy seemed more like an 18 year old than a 16 year old. The "date" scene seemed weird and odd if it really was taking place between a 12 and 16 year old. As I say, I just imagined the two to be older than what Penelope Fitzgerald said they were. Even the mother Nenna, who was 32, seemed to be given a past incompatible with her age. I doubt she was a camp counsellor at the age of 10, and yet Fitzgerald had a scene where she recalls her past before the war when she would have been 10. The story is set explicitly in 1961. I think Penelope Fitzgerald either didn't count on her fingers or mis-judged the age of her characters. But that is just nitpicking. I really enjoyed the book.
Mannered and a bit dated but still delightful.
Very nice writing about houseboat dwellers on the Thames. Good character descriptions, beautiful turns of phrase, and some drama.
Penelope Fitzgerald's books are small wonders. This story, about a group of barge dwellers in London in 1961, is told in her typically economical and subtlely witty prose. It won the Booker Prize in 1979.
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