About Offshore, Human Voices, The Beginning of Spring
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
After publishing her first novel in 1977 at the age of sixty-one, Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2000) went on to become one of the most remarkable and highly acclaimed English writers of the last century. Each of the three novels gathered here vividly and unforgettably conjures up an entire world.
The Booker Prize-winning novel Offshore limns the marginal existence of an eccentric assortment of barge dwellers on the Thames in the early 1960s, a group of misfits who are drawn to life on the muddy river in exile from the world of the landlocked. Human Voices takes us behind the scenes at the BBC during World War II, as world-weary directors and nubile young assistants attempt to save Britain’s heritage and keep Britons calm in the face of a feared German invasion. In The Beginning of Spring, a struggling English printer living in Moscow in 1913 is abandoned by his wife and left alone to care for his three young children in the face of the impending revolution.
Fitzgerald is a genius of the relevant detail and the deftly sketched context, and these narrative gems are marvels of compassion, wit, and piercing insight.
“[Offshore] is an astonishing book. Hardly more than 50,000 words, it is written with a manic economy that makes it seem even shorter, and with a tamped-down force that continually explodes in a series of exactly controlled detonations…A marvellous achievement: strong, supple, humane, ripe, generous, and graceful.” –The Times (London)
“[Human Voices is] a wonderful combination of deadpan English comedy and surreal farce.” –A. S. Byatt
“One of the pleasures of reading Penelope Fitzgerald is the unpredictability of her intelligence, which never loses its quality, but springs constant surprises.” –The Times (London)
“Awards are one thing, talent’s another, and Fitzgerald has it in spades. Warm and wry, her writing is as economical as it is perfect.” –Washington Post Book World
“[The Beginning of Spring] is one of the most skillful and utterly fascinating novels I have read for years. I cannot imagine any kind of educated reader who would not get a thrill from this gloriously peculiar book.” –Jan Morris, The Independent
“The Beginning of Spring is a comedy lit by writing so precise and lilting that it can make you shiver, and an elegy that nods at what passes without lamentation or indifference.” –Los Angeles Times
It is rare indeed to begin a literary career after the age of sixty, and then to achieve reputation and fame as a novelist during the next decade. But Penelope Fitzgerald was a highly unusual and original sort of writer. Before she turned to writing she had married and raised a family, worked during the war at the BBC (the setting of her fourth novel, Human Voices), run a bookshop (an experience that also provided a novel), and taught school, including a school for theatre and drama training.