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The Still Point Paperback – 4 Feb 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (4 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846272297
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846272295
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.5 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 522,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A beautiful, unearthly novel, in which secrets continually open out onto a wild glare of Arctic light' --Francis Spufford, author of The Child That Books Built

`Sackville writes with great assurance and wonderfully evokes the polar landscape and the atmosphere of the period. A most promising debut' --Penelope Lively

`Remarkable both as stylist and storyteller, Sackville unfolds a love story of compelling contrasts ... a fine and distinctive first novel'

--Maura Dooley

`The two worlds of ice and heat, a century apart, are carefully balanced by exquisitely restrained prose' --Guardian

`An exceptional debut novel ... She writes like a younger Rachel Cusk, precise poetry undercut by dry wit' --Financial Times

`Spanning a single day, the novel's dream-like structure belies its linguistic and emotional precision ... a poised beginning' --Daily Mail

'As iridescent in its writing as the snowy wastelands it evokes ... This is a novel of palpable promise' --Times Literary Supplement

'Sackville creates some soaring prose, full of elegance and confidence'
--The List

About the Author

AMY SACKVILLE was born in 1981. She studied English and Theatre Studies at Leeds, and went on to an MPhil in English at Exeter College, Oxford, and last year completed the MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and literary journals. This is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Annabel Gaskell VINE VOICE on 5 May 2010
Format: Paperback
Julia is the great-grand-niece of Edward Mackley, a polar explorer at the turn of the century, who newly married to Emily, left on an expedition and was never seen alive again after a group of men set out for the North Pole from their ship the Persephone. Emily, effectively abandoned after their honeymoon, waited all her life for him to come back.

Julia, who is married to Simon, lives in the Mackley family house and is guardian of the archive from the ill-fated expedition. Some of the ship's crew survived, and eventually Edward's body was recovered along with his personal effects. Julia is an utter romantic and loved hearing all the stories of derring-do as a child.

The action in this novel takes place over twenty-four hot and sultry hours in the life of Julia and Simon. Their marriage is in something of a rut, but we start off in bed after a now uncharacteristic moment of passion. Simon, ever precise, goes off to work leaving Julia to work in the attic cataloging the collection, but she gives herself over to re-reading the ship's log and Mackley's diary on this hot summer day. Gradually Mackley and Emily's story and that of Julia and Simon reveal themselves to us as the day goes on, and there are surprises in store ...

I liked the way the author told us Julia and Simon's story in the summer heat and the present tense, and that of Emily and Mackley's arctic adventure in the past. The fact that it all takes place over one day made me cross my fingers that it wouldn't resemble If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor - another book that unfolds over a single day, but which I didn't get on with.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Suzie on 8 July 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone who appreciates the beauty of the English language must surely enjoy the experience of reading this book. Apart from the occasional glaringly ugly sentence, mainly towards the end, it's beautifully written, almost poetic in the imagery and quality of descriptions. The story too has the potential to fascinate - twenty-four hours in modern-day Julia's marriage interspersed with diaries and speculation about her great-great-uncle's doomed expedition to the North Pole while his young bride, Emily, whiles away her days waiting for the homecoming that would never happen.

Julia and Simon have moved into the explorer's family home, a house of many rooms, stuffed like a museum with Edward's treasures from his earlier Arctic adventures.
You don't have to read far to realise that this is a talented author who will hopefully write many more beautiful books. But although I loved both the idea and the style of the writing, there were aspects that I felt were weak and which therefore spoilt it for me.

Julia herself was the biggest weakness in my view. Despite reading about the detail of her day, with flashbacks to fill in her background story, I never felt I knew her as a person. Not only am I, the reader, made to feel like an observer, I am actually told that I am one, as in, for instance, `You can draw a little nearer, if you're very quiet.' Such comment, and many more besides, destroyed any illusion that I was going to share these people's lives and experience with them how they felt. It is a device used most conspicuously in the early pages of the book, and one that I particularly disliked. As a result, Julia remained a complete unknown so far as I was concerned, despite being the central character. I never understood her or how or why she functioned as she did.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Plastic Mars on 20 April 2010
Format: Paperback
I liked this a lot, and I'm quite sad to see it didn't make the Orange Prize shortlist. This isn't a plot-driven novel - it's all about the style, but it is astonishingly engaging. I was drawn in from the first few sentences. To me the tone recalls John Fowles' omnipresent narratorial voice, but with less archness and more compassion, alongside the wry humour. The author is very successful in bringing about a sense of being a privileged, private audience to something unique and significant, even when describing the most quotidien of details.

At first we see waiting wife Emily and her arctic explorer husband through the preoccupations of present-day wife Julia, who idolises her ancestor and has vague plans to edit Edward's diaries of his arctic expedition. There is an intriguing blend of precisely focused depictions of the present moment, and an attachment to things valued in a past era but perhaps no longer. For a time, the narration moves back to those ill-fated arctic explorations, describing with harrowing precision the deteriorating mental and physical condition of the team. Around this, we are invited to peer into Julia's own awkward but honourable marriage to architect Simon who himself has old-fashioned interests, being a keen butterfly collector. We also see the reaction of other members of Julia's family, past and present, to Emily and Edward's tale, but it is most deeply felt by Julia herself.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Ms. G. Harrison on 5 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
The beautiful imagery and personal detail Ms Sackville uses in the intricate narrative makes it a delight to read. It is a vividly drawn journey between the cold wastes of the north (almost feeling the frostbite), the loneliness of the waiting wife in Edwardian England, and the bittersweet relationships of today. A skilled wordsmith, the author draws you in through the intense highs and raw pain of that longed-for perfect romance, and confronts the frustrations and distances between lovers. On a practical note, the novel is a perfect length for a weekend curled up in front of the fire and will impress any lover of fine literature.
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