Offshore – Penelope Fitzgerald

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Offshore won the Booker Prize in 1979.

From the back-cover:
On Battersea Reach, a mixed bag of the temporarily lost and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the tide of the Thames.

I actually finished reading this last week, but haven’t written a review until now, as I was trying to think of constructive things to say about it. Despite having had a few days, and the help of the amazingly knowledgeable people over at the Booker yahoo group I am still no further towards my goal. The only positive thing I can say about this book is that it is very short!

This book has to be the most boring one I have ever read! The characters don’t annoy me as they are too dull, the plot is barely existent and the setting is dreary and lifeless. This has to be one of the only books that has failed to elicit any emotion in me other than pure boredom! I read all the words, but I didn’t care about a single one. It is not intellectually challenging, thought provoking or poetic. I can see no reason why anyone would like it, let alone why it won the Booker Prize!

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If you’ve read this book and can see any merit in it, then I’d love to know what it is!

Is this the worst Booker Prize winner? Or have I got worse ones to come?

What is the most boring book you’ve ever read? Can it possibly be as bad as this?!

Remember the Comment of the Week Competition! I’m looking forward to reading your comments!


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20 Comments

  1. Joy says:

    Eek! Sorry you had a boring experience. Hope you’re reading a great, exciting book now. :)

  2. Jackie says:

    Joy – I’m reading Gone with the Wind at the moment, and that isn’t boring at all! Luckily Offshore was very short, so I wasn’t bored for long!

  3. Sandy says:

    You crack me up! At least you made serious effort to TRY to say something redeemable about the book! Sometimes, though, there is just no helping books like this. How on earth did it win the Booker? Jeez. And they say the Booker has lately lost its edge…

  4. Beth F says:

    Amsterdam by Ian McEwan was one of the dullest for me — mostly because I really didn’t care about any of the people or what happened to them. I was forced to continue to listen because that’s the only book I had with me on a short trip. It was painful. I hated the movie Atonement, so I have written McEwan off my list of authors to read.

  5. Jackie says:

    Sandy – I’m not very good at finding nice things to say about some books – I’m sorry to anyone I’ve offended – I’m sure that lots of people like this one, and I’d love to know what it is about it that they like.

  6. Jackie says:

    Beth – I agree – Amsterdam was the dullest Booker I’ve read – until I found this one! Have you read Offshore?

    I’m not a fan of Ian McEwan, but I’ve heard Atonement is a bit better than the rest, so am willing to give it a try.

  7. Thanks for visiting my blog! I added a link to your main Booker post to my Booker list post.

    I look forward to reading more of your reviews about Booker books — even though, from your reaction to Offshore and Amsterdam, it looks like we may disagree about several of them. I enjoyed Offshore — thought it was elegant and perfectly captured that little off-beat community of misfits. While I was reading it, I was entirely inside that little world.

    And Amsterdam is one of my Top 10 all-time favorites. I thought it was diabolically clever — like some of the very best of Roald Dahl. I’ve read it twice already. But there are plenty of people who didn’t like it, that’s for sure!

  8. Jackie says:

    Rose City Reader – I’ve been broswing your blog, and quickly realised that we have polar views on most of the books I saw! Thank you for letting me know why you enjoyed Offshore – perhaps I should edit my post to say things like “If you like Ian McEwan you’ll love this!”

    I’ll have a look at a few more of your posts, to see if we have any shared favourites!

  9. softdrink says:

    The cover art is boring, too. I’m afraid it reminds me of a college textbook.

  10. i love when bloggers are honest in their reviews. sometimes i’ll still read a book even if it gets panned by other bloggers, especially if i like the author or cover, but at least i go into it knowing it has the potential to bore me to tears. hahaha.

  11. softdrink – I hadn’t noticed until you pointed it out – it does look a bit like a geography text book!

  12. Jackie says:

    Nat – If you love Ian McEwan – you’ll love this!!!
    If not, then it will bore you to tears! I’m pleased you like my honesty – I do worry about it sometimes!

  13. Simon S says:

    Oh no this desnt sound for me though if I ever try the man booker challenge then I will have to read it I guess which isnt filling me with hope it has to be said.

  14. Jackie says:

    Simon – Do you like McEwan? I have a feeling you might like this, but can’t remember if you like these non-plot based books.

  15. Rhona says:

    Have our book club meeting in less than 2 hours and as couldn’t think of anything good to say about Offshore, thought I’d search for some inspiration online. From your blog; I’m not alone in feeling it’s just not worth Booker prize, is boring etc.
    So thanks folks, I’ll not waste any more time trying to think of something positive to say; be brief in my review tonight and sit back to enjoy the wine and company!

  16. Jackie says:

    Rhona – I hope you enjoyed your book club meeting, and it gave you a greater appreciation of the book. You’re probably in a better position than me for being able to come up with some positives now. What did the other members of your club think? Did any of them like it?

    I really need to rewrite this review, to make it a bit more postive – your input would be really useful!

    Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog!

  17. John Self says:

    I’ve read a couple of books by Penelope Fitzgerald, though not Offshore. My reaction to the first was that it was enjoyable but nothing special; but what struck me was how many people in the comments to my blog post really loved Fitzgerald’s books, and seemed to have good reasons to do so. So I read another and thought it was extremely interesting and brilliantly written – and also quite strange and mysterious in ways. The fact that I couldn’t quite get to the bottom of it actually encouraged me to read more of her, so I’ve picked up more of her books since. Offshore isn’t among them, but if and when I do read it I will be sure to return and let you know if I did find anything in it to like.

    1. Jackie says:

      I have discovered that a lot of people love Penelope Fitzgerald, but she is too gentle for me. I think you could gain a lot from following my blog – and noting down all the books I don’t like – we seem to have a polar taste in books.

      1. John Self says:

        Oh I don’t know – I agree with you on McEwan’s Amsterdam and Tóibín’s Brooklyn (although maybe for different reasons)!

        I don’t think Fitzgerald is a gentle writer but she is a subtle one. It’s easy to confuse the two.

        As a reader who, like you, reads a lot of books, I think it’s important to keep trying new stuff and challenging our own tastes with stuff we haven’t necessarily liked before, otherwise it gets boring reading the same type of thing over and over, eg just sci-fi, or just comedy, or just plot-and-character driven books. Your review of John Fuller’s Flying to Nowhere brought this home to me. Like you, I sometimes read books which have been highly acclaimed and I think, What on earth were they thinking?! However what I usually do in those cases is give ‘them’ the benefit of the doubt and try to work out what qualities the book has that I can latch on to. Philip Roth is a good example of this for me: I used to hate his stuff, now I consider him one of my favourite writers. Often we get out of a book what we put into it, and the books that are harder to get into are the ones that offer the greatest rewards.

        1. Jackie says:

          I have only read The Human Stain, but I loved it! It is one of my favourites.

          I can see what you are getting at, and books like Beloved really benefit from digging deeper into the text, but I need to be able to engage with some of the plot before I want to make the effort to dig deeper. The perfect book should work on all levels and I think a lot of the books we are talking about only work at the literary level.

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