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Offcomer [Paperback]

Jo Baker
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 April 2003
Set in Lancashire, Oxford and Belfast, Offcomer (Lancashire dialect for an outsider) tells the story of Claire. Claire - in her own words, 'Jewish-ish' - is the daughter of a Jewish mother adopted when young by Gentiles, and a Gentile father. She is a young woman with little self-esteem, little sense of who she is and little in the way of feeling beyond her regular recourse to cutting her ankle with a razor. Offcomer tells Claire's story from Oxford University to Northern Ireland, of her disastrous relationship with a young academic and the emergence of secrets from her mother's past, to her gradual acceptance of herself as she finds a path to some level of self-esteem and self-worth. Offcomer is a truly remarkable debut, a novel of quiet and real power. (2002-10-18)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (3 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099437791
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099437796
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,406,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A portrait of a heroine in search of her identity…Baker handles it confidently’ -- Mslexia

‘The writing is very strong. A newcomer to watch' -- Publishing News

Book Description

A moving, quietly powerful and remarkably psychologically acute examination of a troubled young woman's life and mind, in the tradition of Camilla Gibb's Mouthing the Words and Andrea Ashworth's Once in a House on Fire. (2002-10-18)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic Evocation of Malaise and Recovery 18 April 2012
By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A lot of us have some pretty miserable periods in our early 20s. But few of us would be able to evoke depression and frustration as well as Jo Baker does with her heroine Claire in 'Offcomer'. The term 'Offcomer' is a Lancashire dialect word meaning 'outsider', 'someone who doesn't quite fit in'. Claire has felt all her life that she doesn't fit in, that she can't quite connect. She feels an outsider in the Lancashire village where she grew up due to her love of books, and the fact that her mother, a Jewish woman adopted as a young child into a Christian family, knew very little about her past (and, Claire discovers, a lot of what she told her daughter was in fact invented). While Claire was at university her father had a stroke, which reduced him to a mute and partially paralysed state and made Claire feel even more remote from those around her. Claire also feels an outsider at Oxford, too shy to bond easily with her fellow students, full of ideas about literature that she finds hard both to express on paper and to discuss. In order to escape the claustrophobia of student life she spends evenings at art classes. There she meets Alan, a Northern Irish doctoral student, with whom she drifts into an unhappy relationship. Graduating with a 2.1 (and feeling the usual disappointment known to many of us that it wasn't a first), Claire is unable to work out what she wants to do with her life, and ends up following Alan to Belfast where he has got a lectureship teaching philosophy. There, their relationship further deteriorates, with Alan developing Othello-like feelings of jealousy, and Claire feeling increasingly trapped. She begins to self-harm and to suffer from panic attacks. Clearly, something has to change. Read more ›
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I read this book about ten years ago but it still stays in my mind as one that had an impression on me. It is about an English girl who moves to Belfast and her struggles with apparent mental health problems, self harm and feelings of not belonging in the world. The book may have impressed on me so much because it mirrors almost exactly many events in my own life however I feel anyone who has ever felt adrift in life or struggled with depression would relate to the girl's story. It's also refreshing to read a book set in a local environment and I enjoyed reading the descriptions of her walks through the town and knowing the places she wrote about. It must be how people in New York feel when they watch some of the big movies.

From memory, I don't think we ever get to find out if there was some specific event or events from her childhood that lead up to her mental health problems and struggles with self harm. You are left to form your own opinions on this and although I generally like completion and closure at the end of a book, it definitely stimulated reflection.

Definitely worth a read if you're struggling or want to understand self harm/mental health issues better.

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 7 July 2003
This is a wonderful book. The imagery is absolutely the finest I have ever seen in a book. It is an easy read and a page turner at its best. I was skeptical before buying it, just because I had never heard of the author. You are drawn close to the main character and by the end of the book, you wish there were more pages to read.
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