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But a certain failure, distressing to themselves, to be like other people, caused them to sink back, with so much else that drifted or was washed into the mud moorings of the great tideway. She habitually moved in a kind of nautical crawl, with her stomach close to the deck, as though close-furled and ready for dirty weather.

The action is centred on Nenna, a bohemian Canadian expat whose husband has left her and who is left quite literally struggling to keep things afloat. The exactness and offhandedness of her de-romanticising portrait of the river life reflect her own stint on a Thames barge, and this autobiographical realism affords the story unsettling and soggy emotional depths under its crisp, witty surface. Meanwhile, Martha gets friendly with a 16-year old German, Heinrich, staying for 24 hours, as a friend of a friend of Nenna's sister. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average.This quirky bit of humour along with some much more subtle, wry examples soon had me hooked along with the author’s gift for conveying implicitly a great deal about her characters’ situations and personalities. At the end the little community is broken up, with two boats for sale, one sunk, and Maurice swept away in a storm to an undisclosed fate. When she's alone, her thoughts "took the form of a kind of perpetual magistrates' hearing", perpetually having to defend her action and inaction regarding her marriage. Some of us turn up in each other's feed only briefly, others hang out for longer, maybe chat over coffee or a drink. This is a series of vignettes involving a somewhat close-knit "community" of boat-dwellers and various of their land-living relations/friends/contacts.

However, the Thames barges here are strikingly less watertight than the Bells’ Blackbird in The Water Gipsies. But the boat owners are in protracted disputes with the owners of the moorings who are apparently seeking more expensive boats paying higher fees, and the owners of older and smaller boats fear being pushed off. And like the houseboats in that story, the crafts of her neighbours (which also included a former minesweeper) were linked by a rickety and unsafe series of gangplanks.A houseboat is perhaps the perfect setting to dramatise in a low key how precarious is our every effort at constructing a secure foothold in life. Maurice, Richard, Willis, Nenna and her children Martha and Tilda, and even Stripy the cat - all offshore, living on barges anchored on the Thames at the Battersea Reach.

They're neither on shore nor completely away, this ramshackle group of liminal misfits, and Fitzgerald captures them in her Booker-winning 1979 novella stuck between worlds. It was inspired by the most difficult years of Fitzgerald's own life, years during which she lived on an old Thames sailing barge moored at Battersea Reach. He considered the work to be that of a master [7] – more darkly expansive than Fitzgerald's first two novels while displaying the same tightness and precision.As the book worked up to an ending which shocks you with its abruptness, but on reflection seems the most appropriate one possible, I began to see how the threads of the story all prove to have a purpose, link and mesh tightly together.

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