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The Still Point Paperback – 1 Dec 2010
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Praise for "The Still Point"
"Many novels explore the sliding planes, the archaeology of past, present and future and the still points where the fabric of time is rent and characters slip through. This is a lot to juggle, especially in a debut novel, but Amy Sackville pulls it off -- thrillingly, seductively, dreamily. Not only do all the moving parts hold together, but a new fictional voice emerges here as well; not harsh, brash and shiny, not overly self-conscious and sentimental -- somewhere between the calm beauty we expect from novels that invoke Victorian England and the raw edges of modern life." --"Los Angeles Times"
"A quiet but significant debut about identity and family." --"Financial Times"
"Amy Sackville's "The Still Point," a story of turn-of-the-century arctic pioneering and contemporary emotional frozen states, has an Eliotic calm that seems almost uncanny in a debut writer, and a narrative voice that's subtle and original." --"Times Literary Supplement"
"Through Sackville's rhythmic, lyrical prose, readers discover an Arctic alive with form and color, a place of unusual beauty with the ability to destroy. This is a subtle, probing exploration of the role of faith, the meaning of failure, and history's power to move us forward." --"Booklist"
Praise for the U.K. edition
"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"
Praise for The Still Point
-Many novels explore the sliding planes, the archaeology of past, present and future and the still points where the fabric of time is rent and characters slip through. This is a lot to juggle, especially in a debut novel, but Amy Sackville pulls it off -- thrillingly, seductively, dreamily. Not only do all the moving parts hold together, but a new fictional voice emerges here as well; not harsh, brash and shiny, not overly self-conscious and sentimental -- somewhere between the calm beauty we expect from novels that invoke Victorian England and the raw edges of modern life.- --Los Angeles Times
-A quiet but significant debut about identity and family.- --Financial Times
-Amy Sackville's The Still Point, a story of turn-of-the-century arctic pioneering and contemporary emotional frozen states, has an Eliotic calm that seems almost uncanny in a debut writer, and a narrative voice that's subtle and original.- --Times Literary Supplement
-Through Sackville's rhythmic, lyrical prose, readers discover an Arctic alive with form and color, a place of unusual beauty with the ability to destroy. This is a subtle, probing exploration of the role of faith, the meaning of failure, and history's power to move us forward.- --Booklist
Praise for the U.K. edition
-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
-If Virginia Woolf had had a younger sister with a passionate interest in icebergs, she might have written something like this beautiful, unearthly novel, in which the secrets of a house and of a marriage 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
Praise for The Still Point
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. This is her first novel.
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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. However, my fears were unfounded; although this is a very contemplative novel too, it is totally focused on the two relationships within and a compulsive read. Although not a long book at just over 300 pages, it did take me longer than usual to read - I found I was often getting as dreamy as Julia and often needed to re-read paragraphs, especially during the first half. That's not a criticism, but the author's style took a bit of getting used to for me. Sackville is not yet thirty, but has managed to write a beautiful yet slightly uncomfortable novel about relationships and being taken for granted.
I couldn't finish without commenting on the lovely cover - probably the best I've seen this year. A brilliant cover for a brilliant novel. (4.5 stars)
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. I almost felt I knew more of her husband Simon's inner thoughts than I did of Julia's.
Emily's story also suffers. It is told largely from how Julia imagines it, missing so much potential for a thoroughly absorbing tale of a young wife very much in love with her handsome adventurer. Edward's journey, on the other hand, is related through diaries found many years later in the Arctic ice, so the reader experiences with Edward the extreme cold and beauty of the Arctic - and this is indeed very beautifully portrayed. You suffer too the despair of failure, the weight of responsibility for the sufferings and loss of the men he took with him.
I know you can never judge a book by its cover, but I particularly loved the design of this edition. It is so apt - the honeysuckle, the butterfly, the ship, and above all the indigo sea and the ice that all feature in the story.
This came so close to being a five-star read, but for me it barely scraped into the four-star category. It was hard to decide, but it seemed so much better than the mere `it's ok' which, hovering over the button, shows as the criterion for awarding three stars. Such a shame, as it is stacked with wonderful descriptions - the deep ice-blue of the Arctic night when the sun disappears below the horizon for the long winter months, the sultry heat of a summer's day - and an ending that I thought particularly beautiful and sensitive.
This is only my own personal view. If you appreciate beautiful language for its own sake then I'd recommend that you read it as you'll probably enjoy the book, at least as much as I did. If you prefer a faster-moving story that's driven more by plot then this is probably not for you.
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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At the end, I was left wondering whether I had missed something.