2009: 131. Offshore

“‘Are we to gather that Dreadnought is asking us all to do something dishonest?’ Richard asked.”

Offshore, Penelope Fitzgerald

          This is a strange little novel, and as a Booker Prize winner (1979) it’s hard to imagine it winning the same prize as books like Regeneration and Possession.  But taken on its own terms it’s an enjoyable story.  It takes place on a series of run down barges on the Thames (well, one ship shape barge and a number of run down barges), where a number of run down people (again, one generally ship shape) are making their lives.  The characters range from Richard, the competent former Navy man, who for some odd reason finds himself disinclined to leave the sea, despite his wife’s yearning for a nice home in the country; Nenna, wife and mother whose gadabout husband left her to fend for herself while he took a job in South America, and then refused to live on the boat when he returned; Maurice, the friendly male prostitute, etc. 

         The characters are deftly sketched - they live, from hapless Nenna, to her more shrewd children, to uptight (but sweet Richard), but the novel, which clocks in at 141 pages, doesn’t really do much with them - there is some plot, but it’s slight and the book seemed over before it began.  And I disliked Nenna, which didn’t help - she is a young beautiful ditherer, frozen in her terrible situation, and lord help me, I have no patience for that kind of woman, even in fiction.

Date/Place Completed: November 2009; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Booker Prize, Book Resolutions


© Carrie Dunsmore 2017