The London sound? ‘Offshore’ by Penelope Fitzgerald.

There are many novels which seek to capture something special about London. To name a few authors who have tried to portray the city isn’t hard- the mind goes back to Dickens, Woolf, and McEwan. Few people would put Penelope Fitzgerald in this exalted company, but a look at ‘Offshore’ might change the thinking of some discerning readers. This short tale is a sympathetic look back at Bohemian failures in sixties London.

The characters are deftly composed, the sentences are formed adroitly, and the tone is consistent. There are some great moments of comedy, but there is a genuine seriousness about the text. It really is a wonderful reading experience.

One area where the writer hits her target is her depiction of the Thames. She makes one think of great painters of water, and great poets too. Some contemporary poets like Alice Oswald may have superior word craft to this deceased novelist, but it is a surprise to find poetic gems within a compelling and fascinating novel. This book compares favourably with ‘The Bookshop’ by Penelope Fitzgerald, although that too was an excellent read.

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