Offshore

by Penelope Fitzgerald | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: Global Overview for this book
Registered by martinburo of Norwich, Norfolk United Kingdom on 1/29/2005
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11 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by martinburo from Norwich, Norfolk United Kingdom on Saturday, January 29, 2005
Offshore is set in the 1960's, among the houseboat community who rise and fall with the tide of the Thames on Battersea Reach. Living between land and water, they feel as if they belong to neither. Maurice, a male prostitute, is the sympathetic friend to whom all the others turn. Nenna loves her husband but can't get him back; her children run wild on the muddy foreshore. She feels drawn to Richard, the ex-RNVR city man whose converted minesweeper dominates the Reach. Is he sexually attractive because he can fold maps the right way? The novel puts this question, and other ones about truth and kindness.

I ordered this book to enter into tantan's Booker Prize winners ring collection. I still have to read it myself.

I feel ambiguous about this book, it was bittersweet, but a bit shallow. It shows empathy for its characters, but they failed to come alive for me.

These are the participants of the bookring. It's still open.
dodau (England)
Jenatleisure (England)
NeedSun (Ontario, Canada)
goatgrrl (British Columbia, Canada)
tania-in-nc (North Carolina, USA)
cordelia-anne (Georgia, USA)
meganh (Victoria, Australia)
peggysmum (Australian Capital Territory, Australia)
tantan (Queensland, Australia)
fushmush (New South Wales, Australia)
blurbren (Malaysia)
lady-anglophile (Kuwait)
Lillyanna (Spain)
Normy (UK)
jazz-ee2 (UK)
dospescados (USA)

Journal Entry 2 by dodau from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire United Kingdom on Monday, March 07, 2005
Recieved it today. Got a few before it but hopefully I will get around to it later this week

Journal Entry 3 by dodau from Ellesmere Port, Cheshire United Kingdom on Tuesday, March 22, 2005
To be honest by the end I found myself betting on which boat would sink next. This was so short and didn't seem to have much of a plot so I can't say I really enjoyed it that much.

Journal Entry 4 by dodau at Surface Mail in Fellow Bookcrosser, A Bookray -- Controlled Releases on Friday, April 01, 2005

Released 14 yrs ago (4/1/2005 UTC) at Surface Mail in Fellow Bookcrosser, A Bookray -- Controlled Releases

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

RELEASE NOTES:


Journal Entry 5 by Jenatleisure from Chobham, Surrey United Kingdom on Monday, April 04, 2005
book arrived this morning..
looks inviting ... because its so short
yet puzzling because of the comment
"Is he sexually attractive because he can fold maps the right way?"

will get to this book shortly, hopefully an easier read than the others

thanks for sharing it
jenatleisure

Finished it and yes it was an easy read but I am not sure what the point was. I have spent alot of time aroun people with boats and bits of it did make me smile but all in all not really my type of book and I dont feel Ill be looking out for more by this author.
waiting for the next address then it will be off to Canada

Journal Entry 6 by NeedSun from Perth Road, Ontario Canada on Thursday, May 05, 2005
This arrived today. I have a few book to read ahead of it but it shouldn't be too long before I get to it.

Journal Entry 7 by NeedSun from Perth Road, Ontario Canada on Sunday, May 15, 2005
Very short, very easy read but I was never really sure what or who this book was about.

Just waiting for an address and this book will be in the mail.

Mailed 051805

Journal Entry 8 by goatgrrl from New Westminster, British Columbia Canada on Thursday, June 02, 2005
Offshore arrived 4 - 5 days ago -- sorry to have been late in journaling it! I'm just finishing another book, and will start this one at the weekend. I should have it back in the mail by the end of next week. Thanks very much, martinburo, for making this available!

Journal Entry 9 by goatgrrl from New Westminster, British Columbia Canada on Sunday, June 05, 2005
Set in the fall of 1961, and based in part on the author's own experience living on a barge in the Thames, Offshore tells the story of a group of eccentric adults (and two equally eccentric children) who make their homes aboard antiquated barges moored at London's Battersea Reach.

While some have complained that Offshore isn't really about anything, this is typical of Fitzgerald's work (one critic described her as a "miniaturist", writing novels which are simply small sketches of particular aspects of life). Her 1978 The Bookshop (written a year before Offshore and also nominated for the Booker Prize, which Offshore ultimately won) inspired the same kind of response. Personally, I found both books quite compelling, each as a different snapshot of life in 20th century England, and I think they have the potential to stand the test of time. It's likely that even as she was writing this book in 1979, Fitzgerald was aware that the era she was capturing was fast drawing to a close – a time when people would be permitted to more or less squat on the shores of the Thames, and antique William de Morgan tiles could still be found embedded in the mud, was a magical time! (In 2005, Battersea Reach has been entirely redeveloped as a series of upscale riverside condos.)

I also loved entering the lives – however briefly – of the non-conforming community described in Offshore. Those of us who have lived our lives in more traditional kinds of neighbourhoods have a tendency to either romanticize or marginalize those kinds of lives (I loved the moment in the novel when a passing tour guide observes "it’s the artist’s life they’re leading there", when in reality most of the barge-dwellers spent most of their time plugging leaks and fighting the damp), so it was interesting to be right there with them for a time.

All in all, this was a perfect rainy Sunday morning's read. Thanks very much, martinburo, for sharing it.

(Photo: barges moored on the Thames at Battersea Reach, 2001.)

Journal Entry 10 by goatgrrl from New Westminster, British Columbia Canada on Thursday, June 09, 2005
I PM'd tania-in-nc a couple of days ago (June 6th) for her address, but haven't heard from her yet. I'll PM again this evening and give it a few days, after which I'll contact the next person on the list (unless I hear differently from you, martinburo). Thanks!

Journal Entry 11 by goatgrrl from New Westminster, British Columbia Canada on Monday, June 13, 2005
I've now received tania-in-nc's address, and have Offshore packaged up and ready to send. It'll be off in tomorrow' mail. Thanks again!

Journal Entry 12 by tania-in-nc from Mooresville, North Carolina USA on Saturday, June 18, 2005
I happily received this one this afternoon. It will be read shortly.

-- update Jun 22, 2005 -- This is next after my current read -- The Last Curve, by Margaret Allison, c. 1999 -- link goes to blog as it's from booksfree.com. See entry of June 15th, 2005

I collect quotes as I read. These ones are fun, poetical, or even philosophical. Take what you like, and leave the rest. Note that these aren't necessarily the "best" in the book. These happen to be close to the spot where I stopped reading each night.

Tilda cared nothing for the future, and had, as a result, a great capacity for happiness. At the moment she was perfectly happy. p27
[comment: caveat - Tilda is 6 1/2 y.o. - I am forever curious about the notion of 'happiness' and being 'happy'.]

"My sister's place is on gravel soil. You don't feel the damp there. Couldn't feel if you wanted to."
Nor, however, did you see the river, and W. would have to find something else to fill the great gap which would be left in his life when it was no longer possible to see the river traffic, passing and repassing. Like many marine painters he had never been to sea. During the War he had been an auxiliary coastguard. He knew nothing about blue water sailing. But to sit still and watch while the ships proceeded on their lawful business, to know every class, every rig and every cargo, is to make inactivity a virtue, and W. from Dreadnought and from points along the shore as far as the Cat and Lobster at Gravesend had honourably conducted the profession of looking on. Born in Silvertown, within sound of the old boat-builders' yards, he disliked silence. Like Tilda, he found it easire to sleep when he could hear the lighters, like iron coffins on Resurrection Day, clashing each other at their meetings all night, and behind that the whisper of shoal water. p49
[comment: I love the sense of setting in this book]




Journal Entry 13 by tania-in-nc from Mooresville, North Carolina USA on Friday, June 24, 2005
I have to say that this one of the better Booker Prize winners that I have read thus far. I really enjoyed the richness of the setting. Thanks for sharing! I have Cordelia-anne's addy already so I shall get it on the way.

Journal Entry 14 by wingCordelia-annewing from Someplace, Georgia USA on Monday, July 18, 2005
I feel the bookcrossing book Karma working! This is the second of two books I received today, one, this one of course, through bookcrossing and another from a thoughtful friend. This seems like a double bookcrossing gift as I'd never heard of this Booker Prize Winner, though I am familiar with Penelope Fitzgerald. I discovered *Offshore* one night browsing bookcrossing. I'm very much looking forward to passing it along "down under" after I read it. Thank you martinburo, dodau, Jenatleisure, NeedSun, goatgirl and tania-in-nc. I will read this soon.

Journal Entry 15 by wingCordelia-annewing from Someplace, Georgia USA on Wednesday, September 21, 2005
In the spirit of the wild assortment of characters in this book, I've been "offshore" since receiving this bookring. My father's death was shortly after my last journal entry. The last time Papa and I spoke it was in the presence of an old row boat, which brought back all sorts of memories of happy years when our young family lived in New Orleans. When it rained there, back in the 1960s, the streets would often flood and my sister and I would take the rowboat to the streets and pretend we were princesses in Venice. And there were other happy memories of the rowboat and New Orleans. My mother, like Edward of *Offshore* who couldn't live offshore, wasn't able to live in New Orleans happily. She kept on insisting that it was below sea level. So we moved to higher ground.

A part of me will always be that little girl who loved New Orleans and the city's destruction so soon after my father's death was very disorienting. I identified with Martha and Tilda, the little girls of the book very intensely. Alas, I was really too offshore spiritually to appreciate this book as I should. There were moments when I loved the characters and descriptions. Most of all, the book made me long to return to New Orleans, a place that can never be the same.

Eventually, I will find this book and read it again. I was incapable of appreciating it because it stirred so many memories.

Thank you all for sharing it with me. *Offshore* was an erie companion in my confusion. It made me see some aspects of my own life in a different way. For that, I will always be grateful.

Journal Entry 16 by wingCordelia-annewing at Postal Release in Gisborne, Victoria Australia on Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Released 14 yrs ago (9/22/2005 UTC) at Postal Release in Gisborne, Victoria Australia

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

RELEASE NOTES:

The Offshore bookring continues with this release.

Journal Entry 17 by wingmeganhwing from Preston, Victoria Australia on Thursday, October 13, 2005
Received in the mail last night together with 2 RABCKs (one from my wish list), a postcard and a bookmark. Thank you so much cordelia-anne. What wonderful bookcrossing generosity! and such a thoughtful mailing so recently after your father's death. My best wishes to you in your time of grieving.
I haven't had a Booker book for 2 months now, so no doubt I will be inundated with them again shortly. This one does look like a quick read.

Journal Entry 18 by wingmeganhwing from Preston, Victoria Australia on Wednesday, October 19, 2005
This book was a very quick read and just as I was getting involved with the mainly marginalised characters that lived in almost derelict houseboats on the tidal Thames River, it all ended.
The tides of the river echoed their lives somewhat and we learn a little of the ebbs and flows of the lives of many characters ranging from Maurice, the male prostitute to Nenna, who is not quite sure whether her husband has left her and her truant schoolchildren. The eldest daughter, Martha and visiting Heinrich’s trip down the High St Chelsea shops remind us of the era the book was set in, and the hippie lifestyle that was popular then.
The author writes “with a manic economy… and with a tamped-down force that continually explodes in a series of exactly controlled detonations” (from the back cover)
I quite enjoyed this book and now it’s off to peggysmum.

Journal Entry 19 by tantan from Montréal, Québec Canada on Friday, January 11, 2008
Another Booker book to add to the mountain - thanks peggysmum! At least it's short. :-)

Journal Entry 20 by tantan at Townsville, Queensland Australia on Sunday, November 24, 2013
A fascinating look at the lives of a group of very different people living on barges on the Thames in 1960s London. I never felt like I really got to know the characters, but maybe that was the point. Maybe for people living in such a community it is only ever themselves who can truly know each other.

Journal Entry 21 by tantan at Townsville, Queensland Australia on Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Released 5 yrs ago (3/17/2014 UTC) at Townsville, Queensland Australia

CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:

Claimed on the Oz VBB. Enjoy!

Journal Entry 22 by wingcrimson-tidewing at Balingup, Western Australia Australia on Thursday, March 20, 2014
Received as a choice from the OZ VBB. Thanks tantan.
I have it on good authority that the book is definitely no longer part of a bookring and all participants who wished to read it have done so.

Journal Entry 23 by wingcrimson-tidewing at Balingup, Western Australia Australia on Thursday, December 03, 2015
I'm of the school who thinks a book doesn't need a "plot" as such, for it to be an enjoyable and worthwhile read, and Offshore is a very good example of this. The writing is spare but yet still descriptive and evocative, with Fitzgerald being easily able to bring to life the major characters and the setting of Battersea Reach in only 140 pages. For me it's "about" people, relationships, friendships, accepting those who are perhaps a bit odd and different from oneself. About a way of living that we don't come across very often in our cities these days, and I'm not referring here to living on barges. Eccentric people, eccentric lifestyle, lovely book. I admit I didn't find the open ending totally satisfying, but that's just me, as it actually fitted the book perfectly.

Now this little gem is off on a trip to New Zealand as a wishlist tag.

Journal Entry 24 by wingcrimson-tidewing at Balingup, Western Australia Australia on Friday, December 04, 2015

Released 4 yrs ago (12/4/2015 UTC) at Balingup, Western Australia Australia

CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:

Posting off to VeganMedusa as a wishlist tag.
This is certainly a well travelled little book.

Journal Entry 25 by VeganMedusa at Invercargill, Southland New Zealand on Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Thanks, crimson-tide. This arrived yesterday, and I dived into it straight away. I guess I'm like some other journallers in that I didn't really see the point of this book. It was a lovely snapshot of an interesting way of life, but I don't think I'll remember this book at all in a few months.

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