Penelope Fitzgerald / Jun 23, 2021

Offshore 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 Bel

  • Title: Offshore
  • Author: Penelope Fitzgerald
  • ISBN: 9780006542568
  • Page: 151
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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

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    About "Penelope Fitzgerald"

      • Penelope Fitzgerald

        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.


    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 [...]

    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 more 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 F [...]

    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 choic [...]

    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 warm [...]

    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 more worthy than any others. I do however find it fascinating each year when the Booker long [...]

    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 more you look, the more 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 d [...]

    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 [...]

    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 [...]

    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 more respectable than the [...]

    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 distract [...]

    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 [...]

    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 b [...]

    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, [...]

    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 [...]

    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 am [...]

    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 n [...]

    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. [...]

    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 more 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 p [...]

    21. This is a very short book - more 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 ma [...]

    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 [...]

    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 read [...]

    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 sat [...]

    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 more of a meander through the lives of the characters, than a whoa to go story, which is not my pref [...]

    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 S8xtieß towards an indefinite future. The story moves towards the floodtide with many precursors of disaster and a [...]

    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 treas [...]

    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 more 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 more strongly than when I originally read this. /review/show I think I relate - I love dawn and dusk more 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 [...]

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