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The Still Point

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  598 ratings  ·  126 reviews
At the turn of the twentieth century, Arctic explorer Edward Mackley sets out to reach the North Pole and vanishes into the icy landscape without a trace. He leaves behind a young wife, Emily, who awaits his return for decades, her dreams and devotion gradually freezing into rigid widowhood. A hundred years later, on a sweltering mid-summer's day, Edward's great-grand-niec ...more
Paperback, 307 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Portobello Books
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Average rating 3.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  598 ratings  ·  126 reviews

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Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Reread for a discussion this month (Oct 2020) in the 21st Century Literature group.

New review:

Coming back to Amy Sackville's debut novel six years after I first read it was a rewarding exercise, and I felt the book stood up pretty well, and is still very impressive for a first novel written in her 20s.

The foreground story recounts a slow-moving day in the life of Julia, whose great-great-uncle Edward Mackley died attempting to realise his dream of walking to the North Pole. Julia has left her
Mark Porton
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-fiction
The Still Point by Amy Sackville has two main narratives. In the first, we follow Julie Mackley after she inherits a family home which has been in her family for several generations. Julie works her way through the house, sorting out artefacts and belongings amongst the dust, motes and clutter – the most interesting being the stuffed animals in the attic, and re-living the lives of her relatives who have gone before her. We also learn about Julie’s not-so-perfect marriage to husband Simon. In th ...more
"When I was a little girl, we cut holes in the world. My sister took a pair of scissors and cut two lines in the air, parallel, horizontal, and then cut down between them to make invisible curtains which she took carefully between finger and thumb and, drawing them back, invited me to put my hand through the gap. The air beyond was a different air, we'd have sworn it. Cleaner, I called it. Cool, unused. I'd wriggle my fingers, circle my wrist and then pull it out again. In time, my sister forgo ...more
Dec 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, library
I’m finding it hard to rate this novel. It’s written in an ethereal, dreamy style which I quite liked especially early on as I was reading. The story is essentially two timelines. Firstly Emily and Edward who meet and marry around 1899. He’s an explorer and is about to head off on a return expedition to the Arctic and she’s a young woman not really suited to her time. The second couple is Simon and Julia, current day. Julia is Edwards great, great niece. I would’ve enjoyed this book more if it w ...more
Mar 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I seem to have read quite a few novels recently which interweave a present-day story with one from a previous generation in the same family. This is another along the same lines, which I enjoyed because of its beautiful poetic style - it moves along slowly, with endless lyrical descriptions of landscapes and nature, and some sections feel almost like short stories.

It's a book which particularly appealed to me because it has a polar theme - the present-day heroine, Julia, is researching the life
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
The Still Point by is a powerful debut novel which skillfully weaves together two threads one hundred years apart but linked together by the same family.

One thread involves the escapades of a newly-married Edward Mackley who sets off to reach the North Pole. He never makes it there. He dies on the frozen tundra where his body is discovered sixty years later. Meanwhile, his young wife Emily puts her life on hold, waiting for his return. She waits and waits for Edward to come home.

The second thre
An unseen narrator tells of Julie a married woman living in the old family house which was originally owned by an arctic explorer who went off to get to the North Pole but didn't make it. Julie is a bit of a dreamer but intends to research her famous relative by going through a mound of artefacts stored in the attic.
The story is about perpetual love, back then and between Julie and her husband. The writing is full, engrossing and lyrical. The downer is it is full of metaphors which at times wer
Diane S ☔
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
What a beautifully written novel.
Since I didn’t finish the last book for my reading group, I really pushed myself to finish this one. Truth be told, it wasn’t my cup of tea. The premise sounded really interesting, but the book focused on the use of language rather than an actual plot. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Sackville’s way with words - but it felt a bit try-hard rather than effortless. I didn’t like the characters, I wasn’t amazed in the story, but I am interested to find out what the others though. I want to know wha ...more
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I knew then what I knew at page 150 I would not have read The Still Point and that would have been dumb of me. I would have missed out on a very, very good first novel. Why would I have given Still Point a pass? The story all takes place over the course of one day. One day. To my small and quick to judge mind One Day equals a tiny cast of characters, low page count and (Mrs Dalloway aside) boredom. I was right and I was wrong. I was right that there are few characters in Still Point and I was ...more
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of neo-modernism
Sackville takes her title from Eliot’s “Burnt Norton:” “The still point of the turning world,” which refers to the North Pole. Her story focuses on two generations, a hundred years apart, of the Mackley family. One hundred years ago, Edward Mackley attempted to reach the North Pole. He never returned, and his wife Emily waits sixty years for him, living all those years in the Mackley house with Edward’s brother John and his wife Arrabella. One hundred years later, Julia, the last surviving membe ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I regret that I read this book in summer. It deserves a frozen landscape and several long days. The language is beautiful, and the way the story is told from a fly-on-the-wall kind of perspective, where sometimes you only catch glimpses of dialogue or story, or can only make assumptions from what is seen and known, is brilliant.

There were definitely a few moments where I wanted to scream at the main character, because she seems trapped in this house that goes back several generations in her fam
David Hebblethwaite
Mar 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
‘The still point of the turning world’ (in the words of T.S. Eliot, quoted in this novel’s epigraph) is the North Pole, to where Edward Mackley led a fateful expedition at the turn of the 20th century – his body was not found for another fifty years. In the present day, Julia, a descendant of Mackley’s, lives in the explorer’s old house with her husband Simon, where she tries to find meaning in life even as her marriage slowly loses its spark. By novel’s end, Julia will find herself re-evaluatin ...more
Mark Zieg
Mar 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of still-life and cold
Recommended to Mark by:
This was a perfectly charming little word-painting, a meditative non-act of wordplay that plays out in the silence between reader and page.

The author uses words precisely, shaping each deliberately with expert care in relation to the page and its fellows. Rolling her short, suspended sentences about the tongue, one senses even the mouth-feel of words has been considered in their artful selection and placement. Like a prose poem, this is a text meant to be read aloud, even if only in the echoes
I went back and forth between "okay" and "like" on this one. It's very literary. It's got some very poetic descriptions (some of which are beautiful and some of which are a stretch). It's definitely a slow-paced read, which starts out nice but ends up frustrating. The last 100 pages I found much more engaging, which is why I leaned toward 3 stars instead of 2, but it just took me way too long to get to that point.

The concept of contrasting two different relationships in two different centuries w
Ron Charles
The quest for the poles has long exercised a magnetic pull on all kinds of writers. It was the subject of Edgar Allan Poe's only novel and Charles Dickens's most popular play. Intrepid storytellers have trekked across the white page to tell the frostbitten tales of such real-life explorers as Sir John Franklin or to juice up the historical record as Dan Simmons does in "Terror" (2007). The wintry mix of courage, endurance and madness makes writing stories of polar exploration as tempting as lick ...more
Amy Sackville is an author I would never have found but for GR friend Hugh's reviews of her books. Thank you Hugh - I love her voice.

This book is Sackville's debut novel. I did not like it as much as Painter to the King, perhaps because I was not particularly interested in the Julia/Simon story as opposed to the Edward Mackley story. But Sackville is a master of atmosphere. Her rendering of Julia and Edward Mackley in this book is quite sublime. I felt I was with them. especially with Mackley an
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Angela Young
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the most wonderful novel. And it's a first novel which is extraordinary. I've come to it late (it was published in 2010) so I missed the buzz about it at the time, but I like that because it means I can make up my own mind without rave reviews raising my expectations. But it wouldn't have mattered. My expectations couldn't have been too high because The Still Point is a brilliant, lyrical, moving, thrilling, poetic, beautifully-observed, poignant (so much longing and yearning) novel abou ...more
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love this book- her writing style and the unusual sense of perspective in the novel are fascinating, and the beauty of her descriptions, whether describing the frozen polar north or the heat of an English summer day, was entrancing. I usually find myself skimming a lot of descriptive passages, but with this I was absorbing every word and thinking about the book constantly when not reading it.

Her style, and the plot is quite understated, and all the better for it. She deals well with problems
Jan 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have always liked books that have more than one story going on at the same time, especially when they are so cleverly intertwined.
I enjoyed the detail of the 'Norh Pole' story, which I found both interesting and informative, but also moving in the way it showed the deep feelings of the explorer and his wife.
It was, however, the modern day story, in all it's facets, which really made me love this book. I found the two main characters real and believable, and I cared about what happened to them.
Anna A.
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rarely have I read an author that can trace thoughts and emotions and ephemeral impressions of the mind and of the surroundings so acutely. Her world is full of objects luxuriously suffused with memories, of recent and long-gone times. Or perhaps the other way around: it is a book of past events or memories that find shape in the objects that survived them. It read like a walk-through in a museum of the past and present, with the two parallel stories - separated in time by a century - interwoven ...more
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An original conceit--arctic explorer leaves loving wife for his final journey--real life great-great- granddaughter learns family secrets of her Victorian ancestors while living in family home one hundred years later. Taking place in one day and shifting between the weather extremes of polar exploration and a hot summer day outside of London, the arctic story is beautifully imagined; the contemporary couple's story seemed a bit forced. Won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize. ...more
Oct 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: group-21c-lit
At the turn of the twentieth century, Edward Mackley embarks on a doomed expedition to the North Pole, leaving his young wife Emily to wait in lonely grief for his return. A century later, his great-great-niece Julia is living in the Mackley family home with her husband Simon, sorting through all the papers and artefacts left behind by Edward. Through the long slow course of a hot summer day, Julia and Simon are forced to face the unspoken problems in their marriage, and the dangers of confusing ...more
Mickey McCaffrey
May 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve heard that the problem with conveying boredom is that you just might succeed.

To clarify, let me point out that Amy Sackville’s novel, “The Still Point,” is not written to be boring—far from it. However, the novel follows the foremost character in the story, Julia, as she has a boring day. She and her husband, Simon, are on the rocks relationship-wise. For the bulk of the novel, they’re not in the same physical space, so the development of their relationship relies mainly on the subjective r
Francene Carroll
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't have as much appetite for literary fiction as I used to, but the writing in this book is sublime. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the Arctic. The present-day story is slight, but I could have lost myself in the crystalline prose forever. ...more
"Let's not break the bounds of the day. It is exhausting enough, snatching at the past as it slides through the present, without letting the future interfere."

At the turn of the 20th century, two bold people fall in love: Emily, a woman of vigor and intellect, and Edward, an ambitious man poised for an Arctic expedition. It's an affair out of a romantic legend: they part at their conclusion of their honeymoon, Edward to his death near the top of the world, and Emily to a long life of waiting and
Grace Dobson
May 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a spectacular book which has to be one of my all time favourites - and it is a debut! The style is enrapturing as Sackville guides you around four main lives and shows you how physical separation can be as destructive as mental separation. Julia is trying to archive her great great grandfather's items whilst discovering herself only to find her heroine ancestor is not quite who she thinks and neither is she. During this we find Emily Mackley, a wife with a missing husband, who dutifully ...more
Feb 09, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is the story of a turn-of-the-century British polar explorer who left behind a grieving young widow and of Julia, his great grand-niece, who has taken over living in the family home. Julia, whose own marriage is seriously fraying, is obsessed with her famous forebear, his wife and her long vigil. The book's events take place over the course of a long summer day, during which Julia will learn the true secret of her lineage and her husband Simon will make a key choice.

I liked the premise
May 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is clearly a year of reading beautiful books for me. I don't remember who suggested this book or who wrote about it otherwise I'd send them a very grateful thank you card. Smooth effortless evocative writing. The images jump right put of the page. Not to mention the smells and the feelings and, indeed, the temperatures. A brilliant book. I am positively swooning. It's going on my to-reread list. ...more
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Amy Sackville was born in 1981. She studied English and Theatre Studies at Leeds, and went on to an MPhil in English at Exeter College, Oxford, where she specialised in Modernism. After two years working for an illustrated books publisher, she chose to focus on writing fiction and in 2008, she completed the MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths. She has had short stories published in antholo ...more

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