Anmiryam's Reviews > Offshore

Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald
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Mar 31, 12

Read from March 29 to 31, 2012

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 satisfying than "Moon Tiger", a complex and thoughtful book that used its literary devices to deepen meaning and ask substantive questions about the memory, history and fate. By contrast, "Offshore" is impressionistic, a prose painting in the style of Whistler or Turner, depicting a moment of life amongst misfits on the Thames during the early 1960s.

Perhaps its Fitgerald's sly, dry humor that makes the characters, aside from the two appealing and nearly feral children, Martha and Tilda, feel so distant, like creatures under a microscope engaged in an antic dance. Or, perhaps after the sheer beauty of Kathryn Harrison's "Enchantments" and the power and anger of Heidi Julavit's "The Vanishers" I wasn't in a good position to appreciate the precision and craft of this restrained comic novel. Still, in a funny way, now that I am done reading, I find myself recalling the sharply focused details that delineate the motley set of characters, so different from one another, yet all drawn to living on the edge of society. I suspect my opinion will have to be revised upwards over time.
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