Offshore: A Novel

Overview


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 happenstance a receiver of stolen goods. And Richard, a buttoned-up ex-navy man whose boat dominates the ...

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Offshore

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Overview


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 happenstance a receiver of stolen goods. And Richard, a buttoned-up ex-navy man whose boat dominates the Reach. Then there is Nenna, a faithful but abandoned wife, the diffident mother of two young girls running wild on the waterfront streets.

It is Nenna’s domestic predicament that, as it deepens, draws the relations among this scrubby community together into ever more complex and comic patterns. The result is one of Fitzgerald’s greatest triumphs, a novel the Booker judges deemed “flawless.”

“A marvelous achievement: strong, supple, humane, ripe, generous, and graceful.” —Sunday Times

Winner of the 1979 Booker Prize

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Almost disreputably enjoyable...You can breathe the air and taste the water.
Barbara Fisher Williamson
Much of ''Offshore'' simply sets the scene and arranges the characters, tasks Ms. Fitzgerald accomplishes with style....These characters are described with great care and skill. Ms. Fitzgerald excels at deft touches of characterization and dialogue....The action of the novel, what there is of it, is crammed into the final 30 pages....No one is settled in the end, including the reader, who hangs on perilously to a slender spar of the storytelling craft. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Here is life among the down, out and quirky, housed precariously in barges on the river Thames. ``With economical prose and wonderfully vivid dialogue,'' Booker Prize-winner Fitzgerald ``fashions a wry, fast-moving story whose ambiguous ending is exactly right,'' said PW. (May)
Library Journal
Fitzgerald was red hot in 1998. Not only did her most recent work, The Blue Flower, win top fiction honors at the National Book Critics Circle Awards, but several of her older titles were reprinted. Among them was this 1979 Booker Prize winner, which follows a bevy of characters living in houseboats on the Thames. (Classic Returns, LJ 5/1/98)
Library Journal
With her latest effort, The Blue Flower, making many best lists for 1997 as well as winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, Fitzgerald has gone from relative obscurityin the United States anywayto international fame in a matter of weeks. Readers introduced to her through The Blue Flower will no doubt be looking for her earlier works, such as this 1979 Booker Prize-winning novel that follows a bevy of characters living in houseboats on the Thames. Look for Fitzgerald's The Gate of Angels (ISBN 0-395-84838-5. pap. $12), also available from Mariner.
Washington Post
"Dazzling."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780544361515
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/14/2014
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 465,387

Meet the Author

Penelope Fitzgerald

PENELOPE FITZGERALD wrote many books small in size but enormous in popular and critical acclaim over the past two decades. Over 300,000 copies of her novels are in print, and profiles of her life appeared in both The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. In 1979, her novel Offshore won Britain's Booker Prize, and in 1998 she won the National Book Critics Circle Prize for The Blue Flower. Though Fitzgerald embarked on her literary career when she was in her 60's, her career was praised as "the best argument.. for a publishing debut made late in life" (New York Times Book Review). She told the New York Times Magazine, "In all that time, I could have written books and I didn’t. I think you can write at any time of your life." Dinitia Smith, in her New York Times Obituary of May 3, 2000, quoted Penelope Fitzgerald from 1998 as saying, "I have remained true to my deepest convictions, I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as comedy, for otherwise how can we manage to bear it?"

Biography

Although some of her novels were published previously in the U. S., Penelope Fitzgerald remained little known to a general American audience until 1997, when Houghton Mifflin's trade paperback imprint, Mariner, published The Blue Flower, which was chosen as an Editor's Choice by the New York Times Book Review, and won the 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award.

The then 81-year-old Fitzgerald was selected as winner of the NBCC Award over fellow nominees Don DeLillo, Philip Roth and Charles Frazier, winning her first American literary award. In her native England, Fitzgerald had long been a favorite of critics and writers. Her novel Offshore won Britain's prestigious Booker Prize, and three of her novels -- The Bookshop, The Gate of Angels, and The Beginning of Spring -- were finalists for the Prize.

Fitzgerald began her writing career late in life. She was sixty years old in 1977 when her first novel, The Golden Child, was published, a book she wrote to entertain her husband, who was dying of cancer. Much of her previous sixty years' experience informs her writing, from her days as a lowly assistant at the BBC (Human Voices), to a stint living on a houseboat in the Thames (Offshore), to working at a bookstore in a seaside village (The Bookshop).

Fitzgerald was born into a distinguished intellectual and professional family, the daughter of E. V. Knox, who was editor of Punch, and the granddaughter on both sides of Anglican bishops (her father and three uncles are the subjects of her biography, The Knox Brothers). She won a scholarship to Oxford and graduated shortly before the Second World War.

With her husband, Desmond, she ran a small literary journal called the World Review, which reprinted pieces by such writers as Jean-Paul Sartre and Dylan Thomas.

Author biography courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.

Good To Know

Dinitia Smith, in her New York Times obituary of May 3, 2000, quoted Penelope Fitzgerald from 1998 as saying, "I have remained true to my deepest convictions, I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as comedy, for otherwise how can we manage to bear it?"

While studying on scholarship at Oxford, one of Fitzgerald's fellow students was J.R.R. Tolkien.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      December 17, 1916
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lincoln, England
    1. Date of Death:
      May 3, 2000
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      Somerville College, Oxford University, 1939

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