Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Amy Sackville: The Still Point

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time - sheer pleasure from beginning to end. The Still Point is a really exceptional first novel and deserved its Orange Prize long-listing.
I’m not a great fan of the omniscient narrator, but in this book it works. We hover over the books’ characters like god in a helicopter eavesdropping on first one and then another across space and time - from an old house ‘freighted with memories’ in England, to the frozen deserts of the arctic. The author uses the narrative device to pull us in. ‘You can draw a little nearer, if you’re very quiet. Put your face close to his, close enough to feel the gentle rumble and stink of his breath; feel the damp warmth of hers on your own cheek. They fall asleep, as many couples do, first twined and then detached; as we rejoin them they have long since undergone this last conscious act, this delicate separation on the very brink of dreaming.’
Four young people; two marriages - one torn apart by arctic ice before it has properly begun, one in danger of foundering on the sunken reefs of past events. For Emily and Edward the other woman is the North Pole; for Julia and Simon it is the house, with its stuffed polar bear in the attic, the boxes of journals and diaries that Julia spends her days and nights among, the specimens of flora and fauna pinned, cased and hung on the wall. Simon has begun to feel that he is one of them. But in the space of a single day, everything is going to change.
I hope Amy Sackville’s publishers, Portobello, are holding on to her very tightly because I think she’s going to be sensational.


  1. Ahhhhh wasn't it good? I was a little disappointed to see it miss the shortlist because it was just fantastic, but having read through the other shortlisters I think they were going for diversity and more than two very sturctured, literary device using books might have been too much for them.

  2. I can see that - but she is so new and fresh and that's worth a lot. There were a couple of rather tired novels on that short list. Have you been following Elizabeth Baines' blog posts on the skewing of literary prizes towards the bigger, financially secure publishers - Fiction Bitch?