Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald, 2009, Fourth Estate, England
If you want a quick but gentle read for the weekend let me present to you this little gem. I have read a couple of book by Penelope Fitzgerald and I have never been disappointed, but yet, she is not very well known.
Offshore won the Man Booker prize in 1979. Penelope Fitzgerald’s her further book, ‘The Blue Flower’ was long-listed for the same prize in 1995 and was chosen as the ‘most admired’ book. I have read that one too!
Offshore introduces us to Nenna James and her two daughters, Martha and Tilda (Matilda) and Stripey the cat. Nenna finding herself separated from her husband, Edward and having very little money, buys a boat, named Grace, at the Reach community on the river Thames, London. Edward refuses to live on Grace and takes himself off to North London Nenna or Grace to cope on her own. At the reach people are not known by their own names, but by the names of the boats on which they live, hence Nenna, becomes known as Grace. There is also, Lord Jim, Maurice, Rochester and Dreadnought, which sinks.
The boats at the Reach reflect the characters that live there, some being mainly a weekend break from the rush of life and some being left to fall apart through lack of maintenance and a lack of love. However, the members of the community are there for each other, in a take care of our own, sort of way.
On very stormy night one of the boats sinks and Nenna is forced to face both Edward, her sister and future; can she really remain living on a houseboat allowing her girls to run wild with little of no education and what about Edward?
This book is 208 pages of loveliness, which will rock you gentle as the coming and going of the tides of the river Thames about which it is written.