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Offshore

A book by Penelope Fitzgerald

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Vividly gratifying and incisive book that never drains away.

  • May 11, 2013
  • by
Rating:
+5
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 phraseology is literary without being rhetorical, candid without being laconic and attractive so as not to be excessively slavish. If the totality of the novel is written in a too secure fashion, it is not surprising that the story takes place on the Battersea with a group of somewhat lost, Bohemian, barge-dwelling souls. The fragmented lives of the characters and the manner in which they choose to live is anything but rigid. The characters are neither land-dwellers nor sea-dwellers; they are in between - the middle - fluctuating like their barges in utter confusion or utter certainty. For them, however, they are in certain confusion. That is the one thing they are sure of, so it is probably appropriate that they live where they do, in a sense: a no-man's land. The rigorous and hard-edged juxtapositional phrasing is almost like the character mentality: grim, intense, uncertain, twisting, sometimes amorphous. Applying these emotions to the human perception of daily life makes these characters almost depressing and pathetic to want to comprehend. But they are real and genuine emotions. That is the pith of this work. The repetitive mental grayness that thrusts the story forth is rather weary in it hardships, and its subtle dry wit is almost unrecognizable if one is not looking - in vain - for it. The abruptness of the novel's ending may seem unsatisfactory, but it is appropriate: "The hatch in front of them flew open and the frame, tilted from one side to the other, gave them a sight of the wild sky outside...As the battering wind seized them they had to stoop along in the darkness, fighting for handholds, first the base of the old pulley, then the mast. Three toasters sailed away like spindrift in the gale still blowing hard north-west." (P.139-140) The minds of some of these characters appears to be in prevalent disarray. In a state like that sometimes the best way to get out of it is with the help of the people we have around us, like in this barge-dwelling community. To surmount the oncoming gale, Nenna, Maurice, Edward and the lot are not only dependent on themselves, but on the able efforts of each other: a community of willing friends. To stumble off the golden path of destiny and wind up in a realm of havoc and haze is a hard truth of what life can offer. But it is an easy thing to accept depending on the people around you. This is a book imbued with world wisdom and hard falls.
Vividly gratifying and incisive book that never drains away.

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More Offshore reviews
review by . May 31, 2001
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 phraseology …
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Wiki

Offshorepossesses perfect, very odd pitch. In just over 130 pages of the wittiest and most melancholy prose, Penelope Fitzgerald limns the lives of "creatures neither of firm land nor water"--a group of barge-dwellers in London's Battersea Reach, circa 1961. One man, a marine artist whose commissions have dropped off since the war, is attempting to sell his decrepit craft before it sinks. Another, a dutiful businessman with a bored, mutinous wife, knows he should be landlocked but remains drawn to the muddy Thames. A third, Maurice, a male prostitute, doesn't even protest when a criminal acquaintance begins to use his barge as a depot for stolen goods: "The dangerous and the ridiculous were necessary to his life, otherwise tenderness would overwhelm him."

At the center of the novel--winner of the 1979 Booker Prize--are Nenna and her truant six- and 11-year-old daughters. The younger sibling "cared nothing for the future, and had, as a result, a great capacity for happiness." But the older girl is considerably less blithe. "Small and thin, with dark eyes which already showed an acceptance of the world's shortcomings," Fitzgerald writes, she "was not like her mother and even less like her father. The crucial moment when children realise that their parents are younger than they are had long since been passed by Martha."

Their father is farther afield. Unable to bear the prospect of living on the Grace, he's staying in Stoke ...

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Details

ISBN-10: 0395478049
ISBN-13: 978-0395478042
Author: Penelope Fitzgerald
Publisher: Mariner Books

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