Offshore: A Novel
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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
sitting round the table. For the next six hours – or a little less, because at Battersea the flood lasts five and a half hours, and the ebb six and a half – they would be living not on land, but on water. And each one of them felt the patches, strains and gaps in their craft as if they were weak places in their own bodies. They dreaded, and were yet painfully anxious, to get back and see whether the last caulking had given way. A Thames barge has no keel and is afloat in the first few inches of
were dazzled. 7 THE same flood tide that had brought such a good harvest of tiles heaped a mass of driftwood onto the Reach. Woodie looked at it apprehensively. He wouldn’t, of course, as he usually did, have to spend the months in Purley worrying about Rochester, and wondering whether she was getting knocked about by flotsam in his absence. There were only a few weeks now before she went into dry dock. Perhaps he half realised that the absence of worry would make his winter unendurable.
glass of brown sherry each – the best, there was no second best on Lord Jim – restored the impression of a funeral. Richard consulted a list. He wrote lists on special blank pages at the end of his diary, and tore them out only when they were needed, so that they were never lost. With care, there was no need to lose anything, particularly, perhaps, a boat. The disaster having taken place, however, the meeting must concern itself only with practical remedies. Grace had already taken in all that
‘Your sister makes me laugh, but I don’t think it’s right to do so,’ Heinrich said. Martha pointed out that everybody in the street was laughing as well. ‘They’ve asked her to come and do it at their Christmas Club,’ she said. ‘I wish I could still laugh like that.’ They turned into World’s End, and opened the door into the peaceful garden where the faithful of the Moravian sect lie buried. ‘They’re buried standing, so that on Judgement Day they can rise straight upward.’ ‘Men and women
always seems a strange thing in a great city, where there are so many immoveables. In front of the tall rigid buildings the flying riff-raff of leaves and paper seemed ominous, as though they were escaping in good time. Presently, larger things were driven along, cardboard boxes, branches, and tiles. Bicycles, left propped up, fell flat. You could hear glass smashing, and now pieces of broken glass were added to the missiles which the wind flung along the scoured pavement. The Embankment, swept