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The strength of the book - and here Fitzgerald excels - is in portraying a world with all its idiosyncracies and peculiarities. There is such a sense of place in this story that I felt like I had actually spent some time at Battersea Reach by the end of the book. Nenna's children, Martha and Tilda, are given such unrealistic speech for children that it renders the supposedly innocent wisdom of six-year-old Tilda especially, contrived and totally unbelievable.
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. It came to her that it was wrong to pray for anything simply because you felt you needed it personally. The story is set in the early 1960s (dates are a little inconsistent) and is a fairly intense evocation of life on the boats. In an interview Penelope Fitzgerald said she was drawn to "people who seem to have been born defeated or even profoundly lost; people who are ready to assume the conditions the world imposes on them, but don't manage to submit to them. Offshore is a melancholy book about a bunch of misfits living out their miserable existences on houseboats on a stretch of the river Thames.It is like a shared thought then - shared with the reader - when she explains her relationship with a man to another character by saying the man was going to show her how to fold a map properly. Novels that concentrate on the minutiae of behaviour at the expense of a rip-roaring narrative can be tremendously successful, but only if the reader truly cares about the characters. The main narrative revolves around Nenna, a mother of two, living separated from her husband, Eddie, who simply refuses to live on the dilapidated barge she has purchased. Ebooks fulfilled through Glose cannot be printed, downloaded as PDF, or read in other digital readers (like Kindle or Nook). Dutch barges like Maurice are still to be seen (although more thoroughly converted to homes) but leaky old boats like Dreadnought and Grace would not be allowed.
Maurice, a male prostitute, and receiver of stolen goods has become particularly good friends with Nenna, who abandoned by her husband is living on the boat Grace with her two daughters Martha and Tilda. 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". Tenderly responsive to the self-deception of others, he was unfortunately too well able to understand his own. But Martha, small and thin, with dark eyes which already showed an acceptance of the world’s shortcomings, was not like her mother and even less like her father.She was educated at Wycombe Abbey and Somerville College, Oxford university, from which she graduated in 1938 with a congratulatory First.
I suppose that she met the author's task--she fully engaged this reader and pulled me into the story.i really wanted to like this book and hesitate to give this just three stars, but for me the book was flat and a little too understated. 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. All the more so since I knew that she alone would suffice no matter: for if I finished before the end of the trip, to go back and start again would be a treat. Offshore has the comforting feeling of "a children's book for adults", set in the romantic but grubby world of Thames houseboats, in which everyone is escaping in one way or another from conventional lifestyle, and has "the curious acquired characteristics of the river dwellers, which made them scarcely at home in London’s streets".
Edward’s character is displayed as mean in every sense, until finally he shouts at Nenna '“you’re not a woman! The storm has blown away the gangplank between Maurice and Grace and, almost delirious with drink, the two men climb down Maurice 's fixed ladder, intending somehow to cross the wild water between the two boats. The exactness and offhandedness of her de-romanticising portrait of the river life reflect her own stint on a Thames barge, and this autobiographical realism affords the story unsettling and soggy emotional depths under its crisp, witty surface.Described by the Guardian as, ‘one the most distinctive and elegant voices in contemporary British fiction’, Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the twentieth-century’s most acclaimed British novelists. 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. I read it because the author is recommended to readers who love Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Taylor, which I do, but I can't at the moment see why.