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Offshore

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  4,485 ratings  ·  557 reviews
Winner of the Booker Prize

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 hap
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Hardcover, 141 pages
Published by Henry Holt & Company (first published 1979)
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Seabreeze you probably have read it by now. But if not, let me tell you this is a delightful novel to read, which will make you think of the 'barge community'…moreyou probably have read it by now. But if not, let me tell you this is a delightful novel to read, which will make you think of the 'barge community' long after. (less)
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Average rating 3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,485 ratings  ·  557 reviews


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Cecily
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
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P-eggy
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
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Violet wells
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A houseboat is perhaps the perfect setting to dramatise in a low key how precarious is our every effort at constructing a secure foothold in life. I had a friend who lived on a houseboat on Battersea Reach and I remember how every creak and lurch was both a call to adventure and a reminder of one's vulnerability. You might say the world is constantly moving beneath all of us but only those who live on boats are fully aware of it.

In an interview Penelope Fitzgerald said she was drawn to "people
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Sue
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 describe...I'm very glad I read it.

I came to read this book because it was selected as the Constant Readers classic ch
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Vicky "phenkos"
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.

Offshore is a melancholy book about a bunch of misfits living out their miserable existences on houseboats on a stretch of the river Thames. The strength of the book - and here Fitzgerald excels - is in portraying a world with all its idiosyncracies and peculiarities. This is the swinging 60s, but there is not much swinging taking place here; instead, we get to know a few truly memorable characters who try to make the best they can despite the odds being stacked against them.

We meet Ne
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
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
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Zanna
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 ...more
Alex
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
"Offshore" sounds glamorous, like shady bank accounts, but it’s not glamorous when Penelope Fitzgerald gets her hands on it. Her characters are - well, they're living in old rotting barges stuck in the mud by the side of the Thames, is what they’re doing. About the best you can say is that they're often mostly floating. They're neither on shore nor completely away, this ramshackle group of liminal misfits, and Fitzgerald captures them in her Booker-winning 1979 novella stuck between worlds. "It' ...more
Chrissie
In Offshore, Penelope Fitzgerald (1916 – 2000) draws from experiences in her own life. In the 1960s, she and her husband were homeless. She lived four months in a homeless center. She also lived on a houseboat in Battersea, on a barge floating on the Thames, on a barge that sunk not once but twice. The book may be classified as a novel, but it is what it is as a result of the author’s own experiences. It offers a glimpse into the lives of boat-dwellers. It describes their lives with insight, wit ...more
Teresa
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While this is similar in style and elegiac tone to The Bookshop, I preferred the latter. Perhaps if I’d read this first, my preference would be switched. I read it twice in a matter of days which indicates a 5-star read, but I’m rating it a 4.75 to show my preference for the other.

During my first read, I missed some things in relation to the character of Maurice (in my defense, I was very tired). I tried to force a possible comparison of this novella with the much longer Our Mutual Friend as the
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Laura
I enjoyed this: light and breezy but packing a powerful punch. I suppose what really tickled was the dynamics between Nenna, the main character and her two potentials. She is passionate about Edward, her drifting husband, who does not want to live with her; but succumbs to a one-night stand with Richard whom she considers, may be the perfect man - he knows how to fold maps - effortlessly.

It was that portrayal of Richard - the man who cannot express his feelings - at all, that really blew this bo
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Antonomasia
[4.5] This was lovely, and I think it suffers, poor thing, from miscategorised expectations. A lot of 21st century readers approach it as A Booker Winner, but seen that way, by readers who are seeking out old Booker winners, it may seem inconsequential - to quote a friend's review of Fitzgerald's The Bookshop, "teetering on the edge of tweeness". However, if it were placed alongside the likes of Persephone Books, it would fit perfectly among their collection of escapist, elegantly written realis ...more
Ali
May 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 list an
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·Karen·
“che mena il vento, e che batte la pioggia/ e che s’incontran con sì aspre lingue”
“whom the wind drives, or whom the rain beats, or who clash with such bitter tongues”

A boat, by almost any definition, surely, is a vessel that travels. Whether to transport goods or people, for business or for pleasure, it has to move. So what is a boat that doesn't? Here the various vessels serve as homes. Inadequate in both regards, neither a comfortable home nor a functioning mode of transport, neither the s
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Steve
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 the streets ...more
Cheryl
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 daughter ...more
Connie G
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
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Suzy
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 Wikipedia:

During the liminal stage, normally accepted differences between the participants, such as social class, are
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Gumble's Yard
Fitzgerald’s Booker Prize winning novel and written very much in her trademark style. Her she draws (like in her other early books) on her own experience, in this case a period she spent living on a riverside barge in London to sketch a society and the people that live in it, in this case an eclectic group living on Thames houseboats at Battersea ridge.

The key characters include: Richard, an ex-Naval officer, de facto leader of the group, who he refers to by the names of their boats, his wife La
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Will Ansbacher
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: britain
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 fun at her
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Lawyer
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those unafraid of life's ambiguity
Recommended to Lawyer by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
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 Alighieri

Epigraph, 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 Fitzgerald




 photo Offshore First_zpsoo7vat6u.jpg
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Greg
Mar 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Alan
Jan 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
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 but ple ...more
Mac
Jul 19, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 Goodreads, and it won the Booker Prize in 1979.)

The shortcomings: The plot is obscure and thin, close to nonexistent. Though the relatio
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Jeanette
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars- fully. Not an easy read, despite the novella length.

Boat living while docked at its most moving and semi-settled. It's a perfect tidal metaphor too for the period in which it is set- early 1960's.

Take this dicey ride on the Thames. But beware of all the hidden juxtapositions. And you better be pretty sharp to grab all the lines at the same time.

I was on the same page as Martha for the entire ride.

Hundreds of 5 star quotes. And my favorite:

"All distances are the same to those who don'
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Dan
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: man-booker-prize
Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

Booker Prize Winner 1979

How can a novel be interesting and boring at the same time? Well in this case both were true for me. Don’t get me wrong this is a tightly written novel. The eclectic characters in the houseboat community were interesting and the setting was intriguing if not completely unique to anything I’ve read before. So I was invested but the plot was just meh. This felt like a novel of catharsis or at least semi-autobiographical.

3.5 stars. Rounded up b
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Bibliophile
May 16, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, fiction
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 ...more
jennifer
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.)
John
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Possible spoiler alert?

‘Offshore’ is about life on the Thames in the close knit community of river folk who live in barges, some more water worthy than others. They are moored off Chelsea Reach. Penelope Fitzgerald’s characters have an almost Dickensian feel to them, memorable but a bit larger than life. From my recollection of Dickens’ novels I don’t recall a rent boy, but if there had been one I’m sure he would have resembled Maurice, one of the characters “offshore”; something of the ‘Artful
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Julie
Jul 14, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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?
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2015: The Year of...: Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald 59 65 Jan 28, 2015 02:11AM  

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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 B
...more
“Duty is what no-one else will do at the moment.” 27 likes
“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.” 16 likes
More quotes…