Book Review: Offshore, By Penelope Fitzgerald


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The Independent Culture

Perhaps a surprise Booker Prize winner in 1979, Fitzgerald’s novel might seem slightly out of date now with regards to its popular culture references, but its focus on the alternative families we create when our biological ones just won’t do is still relevant.

A mixed bunch live on houseboats at Battersea: a young gay man, appropriately called Maurice, in a nod to EM Forster, who has sex for money; the wealthy commuter Richard; old sea dog Willis; the single mother Neena and her extremely precocious daughters. Fitzgerald’s humour is gentle but aware, sensitive to ordinary human failings and the mess people inadvertently make of their lives in their attempts to connect with others, their need to feel less alone.