Offshore Penelope Fitzgerald

Another Booker Prize winner ticked off my list. Timely to remember why I started this exercise about 3 years ago. Seemed straightforward, find new and exciting authors but I didn’t consider all the twists and turns. Suddenly wanting to read everything a particular author had written – finding excellent authors in the almost won it category as well as wanting to read the odd ripping never nominated for anything novel.

Anyway, back to Penelope and being offshore. In this case, it is a group of deteriorating London barges inhabited by various people who act as a community afloat. This put me off them from the start. Living on a boat in the tropics seems romantic enough if you have lots of money, but a barge on the Thames is just bloody stupid. Set in the early 60’s the characters are also not a sympathetic mob and prove my case that they are a bit bloody stupid. Even the communal cat has little or no redeeming features.

The plot could be written on a matchbox and has no satisfying conclusion. It seems to have just stopped. I suppose most of our lives are like that but in a novel, I would like a bit of a story. This is a study into the detail of the characters, but none is given enough space to allow us to really understand them.

On the plus side, the writing is crisp and clear. This one is for dedicated Booker Prize followers – and if you are one, it is very short.

Your quote: “Duty is what no-one else will do at the moment.”


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