The shortest novel to win the Booker Prize, Penelope Fitzgerald offers a delightful glimpse into the workings of the eccentric London community living on houseboats on Battersea Reach.

A houseboat community rises and falls with the tide of the Thames on Battersea Reach. Living between land and water, its members feel as if they belong to neither. Maurice, a male prostitute, is the sympathetic friend to whom the others turn. Nenna loves her husband but can’t get him back; her children run wild on the muddy foreshore. She feels drawn to ex-naval reserve Richard, whose converted minesweeper dominates the Reach. But is he sexually attractive simply because he can fold maps the right way?

The Booker Prize 1979
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Penelope Fitzgerald

Penelope Fitzgerald

About the Author

The novelist and biographer Penelope Fitzgerald won the Booker Prize in 1979 with Offshore before executing a poacher-turned-gamekeeper u-turn and joining the 1991 judging panel.
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An appreciation of Offshore

Man Booker Prize winner Alan Hollinghurst wrote a new introduction for an edition of Offshore in 2009.

‘All Fitzgerald’s books are the product of maturity, reflection, the quickly touched depth of accumulated knowledge and long experience,’ wrote Hollinghurst, who won the Man Booker Prize in 2004 for The Line of Beauty.

Listen to Hollinghurst read his introduction below.

HarperCollins Publishers · Offshore (Intro), By Penelope Fitzgerald, Intro by Alan Hollinghurst, Read by Alan Hollinghurst
Alan Hollinghurst

The winning moment

Penelope Fitzgerald won the prize in 1979 with her second novel Offshore, which was inspired by the period of her life she spent living on a barge – during which time her home sank twice into the river.

In a post-win interview, when asked about what she would do with her prize money, Fitzgerald said: ‘If you’ve been downed twice in a boat, you don’t think of buying another one, but I am going to buy another typewriter.’

Offshore was described by the judges as being ‘without any pretention and full of originality’.

Penelope Fitzgerald 1979

Other nominated books by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Gate of Angels
The Beginning of Spring
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