Top positive review
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Taut novella of a microcosm of society
on 4 February 2003
Fitzgerald's talent lies in the way she can make her characters interact and "live". Although less than two hundred pages Offshore captures the spirit of a whole host of people all very different and unique. From the poverty stricken Nenna and family to the affluent Richard and Laura via the shady nature of Maurice's occupation- Fitzgerald runs the gauntlet of different problems and outlooks. Fitzgerald never directly mentions the meaning, behind these characters' lives, but we understand more, through her writing, about love, loss and social difference.
The cold, mist and mud can all be felt through Fitzgerald's descriptions of the Thames along with the warmth the humanity of the barges' inhabitants. Within the day-to-day workings of the barge dwellers is a story of jealousy and doom which surfaces slowly during the novel and emerges at the climax in an unforgettable end that is truly chilling.
What makes Offshore imperfect is its limited length. Although a novella often has the tautness and direction longer novels lack it can often be at the sacrifice of material that would draw the reader closer into the fictional world. This is the case in Offshore- although all the characters are precisely defined and the story line never deviates away from the path, it seems that we never get close enough to Nenna and co to really feel for them. In a way it seems such vivid and finely crafted characters are wasted.
Nevertheless, Fitzgerald has written an encompassing and bittersweet tale of people living in unordinary circumstances.