Tuesday, February 7

Book Review: Offshore

Title: Offshore

Author: Penelope Fitzgerald

Pages: 180 pages

Summary: On Battersea Reach, a mixed bag of the temporarily lost and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the tide of the Thames.

Belonging to neither land nor sea, they belong to one another in a motley yet kindly society. There is Maurice by occupation a male prostitute, by chance a receiver of stolen goods, by nature a friend to all. And Richard, an ex-navy man whose boat, much like its owner, dominates the Reach. Then there is Nenna, an abandoned wife and mother of two young girls running wild on the muddy foreshore. It is Nenna's domestic predicament that, as it deepens, draws the relations among this disparate community together in ever more complex patterns.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was a short book, but it managed give the reader a cast of intriguing characters, that were deeply examined, combined with wonderful prose, it was an overall good read. I did find the ending to be rather abrupt, and a little bit bittersweet.

I enjoyed the ending in a sense, because of the symbolism it carried; the ending blended with the mood of the book and the characters in it, but there was a lot left unanswered. Much of the plot just wasn't tied up enough for me. Part of me wonders if this was intentional to help fit in with some of the themes of the book, which does work if that's the case, but I still have the feeling the story wasn't complete. I also found the story to progress slowly, it was very character driven, so I'm partly grateful for it to move slowly, but it being such a short book, I wished it had been longer because then the slow progression would have in perfectly.

The writing is lovely, I enjoyed just reading the book base on the writing alone. The author did a wonderful job at showing the loneliness and disconnected feeling of the characters from the rest of society. I also enjoyed how the author managed to tie in the setting of life on the barges , into the book has a whole and used it to help create the overall mood of the book. A good book little book, but I wish it was longer - I think it's what's missing from the book to make it become a fantastic read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, it lovely writing. The book is slow moving, but it does examine the characters and I guess you could say, makes commentary on the poorer, working class in London.

What to read next: The Bookshop also by the author

Challenges: 12 in 12, 100+ Challenge, Alphabet Challenge


  1. it does sound as if this book had some very interesting characters and the bits that you mention about the symbolism really intrigue me. I might have to pick this one up when I can. Elegant writing always impresses me as well, and I can see myself liking this one. Great review, Jules!

    1. I hope you get a chance to read this book, or another by the author, I've enjoyed books I've read by her in the past. Especially if you enjoy elegant writing.

  2. I love what she can do with so few words (she and Muriel Spark come to mind immediately when I think of skinny boks); the only one that I've read is The Bookshop, but on the strength of that skinny book, she launched herself onto my Must-Read-Everything list. (And, so, I have done a great job of collecting some of her others, but not, yet, of reading them!)

  3. I've also read The Bookshop and found to be a good read, the author says a lot in such a short book. I've picked up one other book by her, but I agree with , she's one of those must-read-everything authors.