Read The Still Point by Amy Sackville Online

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At the turn of the twentieth century, Arctic explorer Edward Mackley sets out to reach the North Pole and vanishes into the icy landscape without a trace. He leaves behind a young wife, Emily, who awaits his return for decades, her dreams and devotion gradually freezing into rigid widowhood. A hundred years later, on a sweltering mid-summer's day, Edward's great-grand-niecAt the turn of the twentieth century, Arctic explorer Edward Mackley sets out to reach the North Pole and vanishes into the icy landscape without a trace. He leaves behind a young wife, Emily, who awaits his return for decades, her dreams and devotion gradually freezing into rigid widowhood. A hundred years later, on a sweltering mid-summer's day, Edward's great-grand-niece Julia moves through the old family house, attempting to impose some order on the clutter of inherited belongings and memories from that ill-fated expedition, and taking care to ignore the deepening cracks within her own marriage. But as afternoon turns into evening, Julia makes a discovery that splinters her long-held image of Edward and Emily's romance, and her husband Simon faces a precipitous choice that will decide the future of their relationship. Sharply observed and deeply engaging, The Still Point is a powerful literary debut, and a moving meditation on the distances - geographical and emotional - that can exist between two people....

Title : The Still Point
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781846272295
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 307 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Still Point Reviews

  • Kelly
    2019-04-01 10:28

    "When I was a little girl, we cut holes in the world. My sister took a pair of scissors and cut two lines in the air, parallel, horizontal, and then cut down between them to make invisible curtains which she took carefully between finger and thumb and, drawing them back, invited me to put my hand through the gap. The air beyond was a different air, we'd have sworn it. Cleaner, I called it. Cool, unused. I'd wriggle my fingers, circle my wrist and then pull it out again. In time, my sister forgot the game but I tried that little magic again, alone, again and again, even after I was caught and scolded for playing with scissors. But I never cut a hole large enough to step through, for fear of being stranded in that other air.I think perhaps I slipped through one of those holes without noticing, after all.I have a new favorite author, guys. Wow, I can't remember the last time I got to say that. It seems that all I've been able to do in these last years has been to bleed favorite authors. The Bronte sisters, Fitzgerald, Stoppard and Austen have stood by me steadfastly, but they've been the few longstanding survivors.It has felt, for years, like a season of slowly putting away childish things.For awhile, most of my first crop of authors survived alongside bright shiny new rivals that popped up like a riot in the first few years after college- Woolf and Greene and Tolstoy and Fermor and Yourcenar, Proust and Judt, Byatt and Braudel, Sackville-West, in-depth dives into Shakespeare, Waugh and Eliot. But it couldn't last. Nothing could really compete with them- reading these authors made me doubt my taste and everything I knew about writing- I had to go back and confirm I wasn't crazy about some things, repeatedly. After the new crowd arrived, then, it made me pickier and doubt myself and my judgment. It also fine-tuned my ear to picking out the kind of prose I love in a way I mostly appreciate (works better than sonar!) but it is also sometimes super annoying. I open my heart to authors in a wholehearted way much less easily these days. I think the last time I fell head over heels for an author, without reservation and right away, was either with Graham Greene or with Susanna Clarke, five years ago. It feels like I don't do love at first sight anymore. Even with some of the names I named above, which I found since then, most of the time I've got critical distance on them for a good solid time (yes even with Yourcenar and Fermor) or my love for them snuck up on me slowly and then all at once after circling them for a long and wary time (Tolstoy, Woolf, and through her Sackville-West).For the most part, I think this is a good thing. But sometimes I miss enthusing and rapturing and jumping up and down and pointing with a neon sign.I miss that good ole' instinctual ALL CAPS feelin', y'all! (Not, let us be clear, that I ever posted in such a way, but it is a figurative thing!)And I did some wary circling with this one at first, with the beginning of Orkney, and threw in some caveats at the end. But nope, I don't care. I'm pulling out a "Deal With It" card because despite all the flaws, I absolutely love this woman's deal. I get it, I see it, I love it, and I can't possibly think that I will get tired of it any time soon.* * *In The Still Point, we follow, simultaneously and, from the first page, quite rarely in order, the trials of the Mackley family. In the present, we have Julia, the last descendant of the family living in its old manse, and her husband Simon, a quiet, mannered, precisely-on-time architect who was drawn there to see the butterfly collection and ended up, by chance, staying. In the never-quite-past, we have Edward Mackley, an Artic explorer whose expedition was lost in 1901 and his wife Emily who waited for him for sixty years in the house where his brother John and his wife Arabella lived. Waited and hoped until his body was found on a far northern island, encased, with four others of his expedition, in ice, waiting with a diary of his tale to be told. Upon the death of her Aunt Helen (the last surviving child of John and Arabella), Julia gives up her job to stay home and research through her family's heirlooms- most especially those of the legendary hero of the family. Past and present exist alongside each other for the course of one summer day at the Mackley house as Julia discovers a family secret and Simon, far outside the house and its pull, makes a decision that will either bring him back into the past or persuade him to give it all up.Sackville lets her characters' sense of time circle forwards and backwards from the night before until moments ago, to predicting moments in the future, and back again to an hour ago in a very organic way. The result is that characters almost never stay in the "present" for more than a line or two- partially this is due to the personalities of the characters themselves (Simon is always stewing over some past recrimination or planning precisely for the future, Julia is always dreaming or sleeping or remembering or reading). Partially this is due to the events of the day themselves, which involve a gathering of facts and a series of assessments for both characters in which they tell themselves the story that will ultimately help them either deal with a fact or make a decision that needs to be made.In the end, the domestic secret is easy to guess by about halfway through, and Simon's dilemma is a foregone conclusion. But the way that Sackville gets there is absolutely stunning. She is excellent with the tiny little moments that make up the second-to-second accounting of a marriage: She lies down lightly as possible on top of the covers so as not to disturb Simon, but he is nonetheless disturbed. She falls immediately asleep and is woken twenty minutes later by the radio alarm, which is very loud and which he does not reach to turn off.. taking a small revenge for having the last twenty minutes snatched from him... When he turns his head he is surprised to see his wife curled towards him, smiling, not angered by his thoughtlessness, (his thought-out thoughtlessness, he is never unknowingly thoughtless). 'I like this tune,' she says, as if to annoy him.And she entwines these sorts of observations with precise character creation very deftly: Julia wonders, watching him, whether he will be too hot but decides not to say anything. Perhaps she is a little annoyed by him, a man who put a suit jacket on to drive to the station on a summer's day, perhaps this is her little revenge in turn, but she is rarely so calculating or malicious, certainly not before breakfast. It is more a drift across the surface:Warm, to wear a suit, won't you be too... too hot for eggs. I don't want that cloy. Back of the throat. Yellow yolk yellowyolkyellow. I'll just have toast.And always the reminder of the real reasons we do things beneath the pettiness, which she is very good at finding at the end of every short story we pass through on our way: He doesn't speak as he opens the door, as he turns to take her coat from her, he doesn't speak. And she hands him her coat and bursts into rare tears, and he folds his arms around her then and she remembers how tall he is, remembers the place for her head beside his breastbone, which has been there for ten years, was there always, and doesn't speak... He knows how close she always is to mourning and wishes he could make this count for it. But she is grateful to him, for his silence, she could not begin to find the words... But he is glad she is warm now, and had need of him.Her observations of character are well enough and go on, kindly and gently and then sharply throughout the novel, particularly towards the end.But Sackville's real and true strength is actually, as in Orkney, her descriptions of Place. People and their lives and decisions and feelings are heavily affected by their Place, either the one where they are or the one where they wish to be. The landscape sits at the center of everything: At dawn and dusk, a daily cycle, it rolled and piled in extraordinary forms all about them; the men on deck saw mountains, monsters and beasts rise and topple, abstract complex geometrics, gigantic crystals glinting off every surface and smashing slowly into glittering facets. And everything suffused with the sunlight that left its colours lingering, flaming brilliant gold against the cobalt sky before fading to pearlescence, the shadows hollowed out a deep lucent blue.....Circling and circling his mind returns to it. Among the clutter that catches at his thoughts in hints and snatches, Julia lies resplendent on the bearskin like a vivid half-forgotten dream. Is it possible to know her? Even what is past is not constant. Countless versions of her coalesce, flicker, disperse. She is lost moments and habits too familiar to recall and a turn of the head one Tuesday afternoon; memories will fold and flutter and resettle themselves..Skin against snow, spread out across the sky..And when it's over and she opens her eyes, the pupils widen with pleasure but for a moment, she's sure, they are pinpricks, as if she must adjust to the dim world she returns to from wherever she's been, lost in the snow...The butterflies, then, heave and clamber; the bees bustle and hum; Tess is up and prowling, licking the last of a juicy bluebottle from her teeth with a luxuriant tongue. Everywhere the creak and sigh of growing things, of life, but there is only a rumpled basket, a discarded book, where we left Julia. The air stirs, lifting the pages until they hesitantly turn; the words grow faint until there is only regret remaining: 'I cannot go on,' whispering across the garden, then the merciful breeze turns on to the ending, where there is only unfulfilled white.But she is not only interested in Place. She is interested in Story. She is interested in the stories we tell ourselves, and the stories that we tell others, and how we convince ourselves that the Kids Are All Right. She has Julia link herself into a legend and find a corner for herself to inhabit, imagining herself into dream over and over again. But what happens when that is shattered? What do you hold on to when the dream is over?So there it is, a person and a relationship tied to a Place, tied to a Legend, tied to time moving backwards and forwards, and wrapped up in currents moving inwards and out again, never quite recovering in either direction.It's a beautiful portrait of Time Passing, offered in the most every day and domestic sense, in a quiet way full of clocks striking and ovens heating and humid air. What I love about Sackville in this book is her gentle guiding hand through all of this, like a loving, understanding tour guide.And I think that's the key there. Sackville tries to make us understand through sensation and beauty and expression. She is not hurried about it, but she is insistent, and somewhere, sometime, one of her clocks or flowers or butterflies will give you what you need to know.* * *Before I end, though, a small protest: So, The Still Point is Amy Sackville's first novel. When it was released, it was crowned with, as everyone's favorite underachieving writer/gigolo Paul Varjak said, "the dirtiest of all dirty words, promising."And I can see that. The bones are showing here in the sense that I can see the literary troves she borrowed from in a very obvious and almost writer's-exercise sort of way, blueprints borrowed from the senior architect upstairs. Eliot is the title-acknowledged source, and to be fair, she puts that to you right up front. All his sense of simultaneous time, time in a garden with small animals and barely seen tiny atrocities in corners that we're rushed along past when possible. Woolf, too, is the other major well we're drawing from, from Mrs. Dalloway and her stream-of-consciousness leading her through her one day in London mostly, but also most definitely from The Waves crashing onto and off of our consciousness, and the soothingly all-knowing, slightly condescending at times narrator from Orlando, with just a pinch of Thackeray and Austen thrown in to occasionally lighten the mood. She paints with nostalgia and depth and color like Waugh and Greene... I could go on. It's all there.But here's the thing. It's used just... so well. It's used the way that borrowing from other authors should be used, with updating and twists and your own pointed spin on the thing. Eliot is used to spin the dreams and reveries of the north, the mythos of Emily, waiting, waiting, waiting, Julia, sleeping and waking. She gets dozens of pages just musing on "the still point," as a concept alone, and she's right to do so. Woolf is used and layered on to go in and out of our characters' minds at will. I particularly liked the way that she used stream-of-consciousness in a very deliberate way- to correct the narration she had just given us of what someone was thinking- to show the different between the outer and inner in a clear and lucid way that added to the text. So I think this book is "promising" rather than fully realized only in two senses: first, that Sackville didn't clean up her tracks after herself as well as I imagine some people would like. I can only see why in the sense that it is distracting to see another pair of larger footprints continually beside the ones you are meant to be following. I don't mind it- I thought it added to the experience, that it was a great statement on the uses of certain kinds of prose throughout. Second, that as a result of her explorations, we got to see less of her own indulgence in her own prose than I would have liked. Orkney has the same sense of strong influences from the British canon, but it is much more independent in the sense that the focus is on her gorgeous, gorgeous prose rather than on the backbone of the thing and where it came from.I could not have cared less about that, if that wasn't clear by now.* * *A last addendum, lest I forget:Oh yeah, you should read this.

  • Judy
    2019-04-16 08:39

    I seem to have read quite a few novels recently which interweave a present-day story with one from a previous generation in the same family. This is another along the same lines, which I enjoyed because of its beautiful poetic style - it moves along slowly, with endless lyrical descriptions of landscapes and nature, and some sections feel almost like short stories. It's a book which particularly appealed to me because it has a polar theme - the present-day heroine, Julia, is researching the life of her great-aunt, Emily, who was married to an explorer who died tragically on a failed North Pole mission, a story which seems to be partly inspired by the Scott expedition to the South Pole. I've recently watched two TV mini-series about polar exploration, 'The Last Place on Earth', about Scott, and 'Shackleton', so I've been thinking a lot about what drives people to go on these missions and what it would be like for their families waiting - and this novel has a focus on the wife waiting for the husband she has only known for a few months, in a sort of suspended honeymoon.I was gripped by the polar sections of the novel, but rather sorry that there is so much space devoted to the floaty, vague modern heroine, Julia, and her more mundane marital problems with her husband Simon, a butterfly collector. To me this seemed like a hobby too obviously chosen for its symbolic value, suggesting how he is trying to pin her down, since I very much doubt anyone catches butterflies nowadays. I also think it's a pity the dust jacket makes a comparison with Virginia Woolf, since this is an awful lot to live up to. However, I did really like the book and would read more by Amy Shackleton.

  • Felice
    2019-03-31 10:45

    If I knew then what I knew at page 150 I would not have read The Still Point and that would have been dumb of me. I would have missed out on a very, very good first novel. Why would I have given Still Point a pass? The story all takes place over the course of one day. One day. To my small and quick to judge mind One Day equals a tiny cast of characters, low page count and (Mrs Dalloway aside) boredom. I was right and I was wrong. I was right that there are few characters in Still Point and I was right that it isn't very long. It's only 320 pages.(Apologies to author Amy Sackville. I'm sure 320 pages seems just right to her.) But Boredom? Not at all, just the opposite. Good thing I didn't read the synopsis carefully before I started reading the book. The Still Point is the story of two marriages. Julia and Simon have a seemingly enviable life. He goes off to work and she dawdles through the ancestral home. Appearances though... Sometime in the last few years of their ten year marriage Simon and Julia started keeping secrets from one another. Simon is all restless irritation and helpless to close the growing distance between himself and his wife. Julia has Barbara Cartland ideas of love and is operating just this side of depression. She is supposed to be archiving the papers and property of her great-great uncle, Edward Mackley. Uncle Ed was a famous turn of the century explorer. The second marriage of the novel is his and Emily's. Two weeks after their vows Edward left for the North Pole and Emily never saw him again.Julia was brought up on family stories of Edward's bravery and sacrifice. She does view him as a heroic figure but it is the left behind Emily that really captures Julia's imagination. As Julia begins to catalog Edwards relics and read his journals she romanticizes their marriage all out of proportion. Two weeks after their marriage Edward left on his expedition and Emily went to live in what is now Julia and Simon's home with Edward's brother and his wife. While Edward's short life was filled with possibility and misadventure, Emily's long life was much quieter. She waited to hear from Edward and then waited to hear of his death but both of their lives were a mental struggle to survive. My outline of the basic events in The Still Point make it seem like a straightforward, contemporary bad marriage story and it is that but it is also more than that. The study of one marriage that may be ending and another one that never got started is juxtaposed against the individuals in each of these relationships. Edwards reckless quest verses Simon's 9 to 5 office life and Emily's unfulfilled hopes verses Julia's squandered opportunities. Sackville is wonderfully inventive in using Julia's girlish ideas of love to unify both couples stories. Sackville does step outside of the domestic drama in The Still Point. Through Edward's journals she takes us along on his expedition. We know the end of his trip before Julia ever opens the diaries but that doesn't lessen the vigorous reading experience that Sackville creates. This physically puissant part of the story works well as another opposite to the restrained and secretive lives of Simon and Julia and Emily's life after Edward.I'm thrilled that I did not let my preconceptions about the whole One Day thing get in the way of reading The Still Point. It was a wonderful novel. The kind of novel that carries you along until suddenly insignificant things start to have new meaning. Amy Sackville's writing is a pleasure to read. If you have missed the great Carol Shields you should give The Still Point a try. It would also make an first rate book club choice.

  • David Hebblethwaite
    2019-04-08 08:34

    ‘The still point of the turning world’ (in the words of T.S. Eliot, quoted in this novel’s epigraph) is the North Pole, to where Edward Mackley led a fateful expedition at the turn of the 20th century – his body was not found for another fifty years. In the present day, Julia, a descendant of Mackley’s, lives in the explorer’s old house with her husband Simon, where she tries to find meaning in life even as her marriage slowly loses its spark. By novel’s end, Julia will find herself re-evaluating both her own relationship and what she thought she knew about Mackley and his wife, Emily.Amy Sackville’s debut has to be one of the most intensely focused novels I’ve read in quite some time. The action in the book’s present takes place over the course of one day (though there also passages set in Edward Mackley’s time, and flashbacks to earlier in Julia’s and Simon’s relationship), and is almost entirely about the relationships of the two couples. Sackville sets up thematic parallels between the two, using the North Pole as a metaphor; the central idea seems to be that the nature of Arctic geography is such that you can never be sure when you’ve actually reached the Pole, just as perhaps you can never truly be sure that you’ve got to the heart of the person you love.The parallels between the couples are interesting and, in a way, rather challenging. Ostensibly, they’re quite straightforward – both Julia and Emily are free spirits who ended up with a domestic existence while their husbands go out to work, and both have reason to wonder, ‘Is he coming back?’ Think about it more deeply, though, and the comparison starts to seem absurd: there’s a world of difference between trekking to the North Pole and commuting to London for the day, and between waiting decades for news of your husband – who, you’re well aware, might have died – and waiting a few hours to discover whether he’s returning home to you after work, or seeing someone else.And yet… I think Sackville is challenging us to consider such deeper parallels. It seems clear that Julia sees something of herself in Emily’s situation, and undoubtedly both women have been ‘left behind’, albeit it in different senses. I suppose one could turn the question around and ask what there is of Julia’s situation in Emily’s, which raises the issue of the human consequences of attempting great feats – if someone is left behind at home, does it really make a difference why that was, if they have to deal with the same emotions? The Still Point certainly leaves one with plenty to think about.Sackville’s prose style is interesting, often addressing the reader directly:Closer inspection of [the couple's:] eyeelids will reveal that [Julia:] is dreaming. Behind the skin you wil just discern, in the violet dimness, the raised circles of her pupils scud and jitter as the eyes roll in their sockets. You would like to know the hidden colour of the irises. Very well, then: hers are brown, his are also brown, but darker. [7:]I wasn’t sure for some time whether I’d get along with it, but now I think it suits the novel well; it gives the sense of eavesdropping on the characters rather than inhabiting them, which seems appropriate for a book about how it’s a struggle fully to get to know people. This style also leads to some striking effects: for example, there’s a scene where Julia and Simon argue, and the clash of their argument with the more poetic writing around it is quite something. Then there are the places where Sackville just writes beautifully, as with many of her descriptions of the Arctic:Blank, white, vast and silent but for the slish of the summer ice. It is not the heave and roar of the darker months, but a constant drip, the rush of a hundred rivulets. A slick sheen over everything as if coated in glass. There are no shadows here, beneath the Arctic sun. There is no sense of depth, only massive solid forms without contour and, between, the black sea. The sky is almost white. Don’t look up, or let your gaze rest anywhere for too long. The sun is everything; try to keep your eyes half closed, the brightness will blind you. [153:]The Still Point is a book which has stayed with me; perhaps it wasn’t until I’d finished it that I realised just how much I’d been drawn into its world. I’m glad that I was.

  • Mark Zieg
    2019-04-15 14:30

    This was a perfectly charming little word-painting, a meditative non-act of wordplay that plays out in the silence between reader and page. The author uses words precisely, shaping each deliberately with expert care in relation to the page and its fellows. Rolling her short, suspended sentences about the tongue, one senses even the mouth-feel of words has been considered in their artful selection and placement. Like a prose poem, this is a text meant to be read aloud, even if only in the echoes of your mind.Her enjoyment with words is infectious: coruscating to "core us skating"; bare bear skin, padding on pads. Even punctuation plays a part, softly concluding each note so that its heft might weightlessly linger a moment in your mind. Whitespace is evident throughout, from the frozen simplicity of the binding to the ladderly gaps betwixt lines, bleak moats which must be crossed to reach the next flotilla of fine black text.Not one to leave her reader stranded at the gates of meaning, the author comes with us on this quest, peeling back each page in an unusually present first-person plural point of view; and if omniscient, the narrative accompaniment reflects a mischievous and occasionally absent-minded aspect, easily distracted by will-o-wisp glints of memory.I'm unsure whether I'm willing to term this delightful text a "novel", which is almost overly replete with cheesy connotations of dimestore pulp; this is more of an interactive still life, rolled out in slo-mo so the reader can savor each succulently crystalline freeze-frame.I regret that I haven't had a chance to finish it, in part because the gently swaying lap and lull of the languid descriptions evoke such a dreamy state that it becomes an effort to pull ones eyes forward in time. I do want to spend more time with this experiential tour-de-placid, but I suppose I shall have to relinquish my copy and give some other explorer their chance to brave the candent ice :-/

  • Margaret
    2019-04-17 09:23

    Sackville takes her title from Eliot’s “Burnt Norton:” “The still point of the turning world,” which refers to the North Pole. Her story focuses on two generations, a hundred years apart, of the Mackley family. One hundred years ago, Edward Mackley attempted to reach the North Pole. He never returned, and his wife Emily waits sixty years for him, living all those years in the Mackley house with Edward’s brother John and his wife Arrabella. One hundred years later, Julia, the last surviving member of the Mackley family and granddaughter of John, lives in the Mackley house along with her architect husband, Simon. She is trying to go through the things in the house after Helen Mackley, John’s daughter and Julia’s aunt, has passed away. The novel is told in alternating narratives of the two time periods. Sackville makes every effort to tell her story slowly and beautifully, including dream narratives and direct quotations from Edward’s long-lost but now found diary detailing his wooing of Emily, his marriage to her, and his lengthy and dangerous trip north. Sackville is always thoughtful and innovative as she writes, but the portions about Edward, Emily, and the journey are just so much more interesting than the contemporary story of Julia and Simon. It’s almost as if Sackville’s neo-Woolfian style is somehow happier when it deals with events that took place during Woolf’s life time rather than those that take place during Sackville’s. Still, the book is never bad, just slower when less interesting. As sluggish as it sometimes is, The Still Point is a very fine first novel, and I look forward to reading Sackville’s future novels.

  • Kristin
    2019-04-18 16:38

    I went back and forth between "okay" and "like" on this one. It's very literary. It's got some very poetic descriptions (some of which are beautiful and some of which are a stretch). It's definitely a slow-paced read, which starts out nice but ends up frustrating. The last 100 pages I found much more engaging, which is why I leaned toward 3 stars instead of 2, but it just took me way too long to get to that point.The concept of contrasting two different relationships in two different centuries was a good one. The beauty and the terror of the Arctic compared to the mild ennui of suburban England was a good contrast too.An enjoyable book, if you have the patience to enjoy it.

  • Hugh
    2019-03-25 12:19

    This is a hugely impressive debut novel, full of bold language and striking imagery. The book is partly a tale of polar exploration, but the doomed adventurer's family story is equally important, as is the modern love story that frames it

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-04-16 09:31

    What a beautifully written novel.

  • Bettie☯
    2019-03-30 11:33

    Emma Fielding reads from Amy Sackville's debut novel about true courage and enduring love, in which the lives of two couples, living a hundred years apart, collide unexpectedly one summer's day. Blurb - At the turn of the 20th century, Arctic explorer Edward Mackley set out for the North Pole and disappeared into the icy landscape. He left behind a young wife, Emily, who awaited his return for decades, during which her dreams of life with her heroic husband gradually froze into lonely widowhood. A hundred years later, on a sweltering summer's day, Edward's great-grand-niece Julia is searching through the family house, trying to make some sense of the decades of clutter and the memories from that ill-fated expedition. As Julia continues her research into the Artic journey that ended the life of her beloved ancestor, she can't help but notice the deepening cracks within her own marriage.Abridged by Sally MarmionBroadcast on:BBC Radio 4, 10:45pm Monday 25th January 2010Produced by Justine Willett.-----Amy Sackville wins John Llewellyn Rhys prize for The Still PointJudges call novel 'breathtaking', predicting a future littered with international awards for the first-time author.Tried again with a new head but this really is not for me.

  • Susan
    2019-03-26 08:45

    I have always liked books that have more than one story going on at the same time, especially when they are so cleverly intertwined.I enjoyed the detail of the 'Norh Pole' story, which I found both interesting and informative, but also moving in the way it showed the deep feelings of the explorer and his wife.It was, however, the modern day story, in all it's facets, which really made me love this book. I found the two main characters real and believable, and I cared about what happened to them.I wanted to be in that old house,and thought the contrast between the heat of that summer day, and the bitter cold of the ice floes very atmospheric. I just loved it!! (less)

  • Iva
    2019-04-19 11:36

    An original conceit--arctic explorer leaves loving wife for his final journey--real life great-great- granddaughter learns family secrets of her Victorian ancestors while living in family home one hundred years later. Taking place in one day and shifting between the weather extremes of polar exploration and a hot summer day outside of London, the arctic story is beautifully imagined; the contemporary couple's story seemed a bit forced. Won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize.

  • Megan
    2019-04-15 10:25

    "Let's not break the bounds of the day. It is exhausting enough, snatching at the past as it slides through the present, without letting the future interfere."At the turn of the 20th century, two bold people fall in love: Emily, a woman of vigor and intellect, and Edward, an ambitious man poised for an Arctic expedition. It's an affair out of a romantic legend: they part at their conclusion of their honeymoon, Edward to his death near the top of the world, and Emily to a long life of waiting and grief. Over a century later, Edward's sweetly romantic great-great-niece Julia is curating the family archives she inherited, living in her family house full of treasures and testaments, all while she and her husband Simon--both quiet, private people--struggle to overcome their own fears and disconnections.The Still Point is a story about intimacy: the loss of it, the retrieval of it, and how it can sour in banal ways. It's also a story about creating narratives, especially about the past, and how that influences the present. What lifts such thematic material is Amy Sackville's elastic use of the omniscient POV. At the start of the book, in the contemporary timeline, the omniscient narrator teasingly pokes at the characters' dreaming minds and their sleeping bodies with equal parts invasion and imagination: 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.And then the omniscient narrator grabs us by the hand for a playful guided tour of the sleeping house, to poke around in the rooms and in the intimacies that take place in there: In a few hours they will rise and pass through this door to the adjoining bathroom, to rinse themselves of the night's residue. It is even hotter here, airless; there is no window and it is very dark without the benefit of streetlight, which seeps through their bedroom blind. They are not the kind of couple to share their ablutions, one in the shower while the other brushes teeth, and so forth. They are both quite private people, and whilst they have struggled to open their hearts as wide as they can to each other, the secrets of their bodies have remained their own. She would hate for him to watch her shaving her underarms, for example, or picking at her toenails as she relieves herself, pulling them short where necessary. He, on the other hand, might well be embarrassed if she were to see him cleaning the dirt from between his toes in the same posture. But they will in all likelihood never know of these similar habits. He will never watch her and tut — his own nails are carefully kept, on toes and fingers alike — but she in turn will never see him and smile as he scrubs with the nailbrush, seven times on each hand. We might observe as they perform these rites, if we stood here before the sink and waited a little longer; but it is hot and stuffy, smells a little of damp, and besides there is something unnerving, is there not, about a mirror in darkness. And perhaps we would rather not strip them entirely of mystique, not yet. Let us return instead to their bedside.It's a technique that efficiently communicates the types of intimacy gaps plaguing--or building, perhaps--Julia's and Simon's relationship, while seducing the reader with the widest possible, most highly detailed perspective. But what I found even more interesting was the way the book's omniscient narration intersected, and played with, Julia's attempts at omniscient knowability as she manages the physical detritus of her family history, here in the ancient family house. She grew up demanding her favorite stories about the adventures of brave Edward, and sighing over the stories of just-as-brave but endlessly waiting, endlessly grieving Emily. It's a narrative that taught her about herself, about her family, about grief and about love: "The story passed from Emily to Helen and on, through a line of surrogate daughters; this is the legacy that Julia owes a debt to, both the legend of the figure in the snow, and the woman left behind who shaped the legend while she waited." Julia's imagination is just as audacious and vivid as that of the book's omniscient narrator, as she handles the physical objects that remain long after the lives have faded:Item 5: Telescope. Tin. Found in camp beside grave site discovered F.J. Land 1959; believed property of Edward Mackley.It may, in truth, have belonged to any one of the five found there; but he was the navigator, after all. And she would like to believe that through this same curve of glass he watched his wife grow distant on the shore. The lens is intact, if a little scratched, and looking through it now we might yet spy Emily Mackley trapped under the glass, waving as she watched her husband shrink, while he adjusts the focus, again and again, sharpening her outline each time it blurs until at last it will turn no further.Only, of course, Julia doesn't know the past, only the story of it, which is not the only truth there is. Everyone's lives, like Julia's, are built on foundations that are believed in more than they are precisely calculated for. Not only are do we not know when we pass over the still point, the still point is not still at all. The novel spends time coming to terms with this, while cataloging one day that, despite its deceptive lugubriousness, may be pivotal to Julia's understanding of the past and how she thinks about the present.If my excessive quotations don't make it obvious, I should probably state that I found Sackville's prose wonderful, full of echoes and subtleties, interested in the sinewy moments that make up emotional shifts and bring forth small acts of bravery and change. Beyond the playful use of omniscient (I love a good omniscient narrator, seriously) and the emotional intimacy it engenders, I was equally invested in the brutal details of the failed Arctic exploration and the emotional messiness, the careful rendering of Julia's and Simon's fearful, yearning lives. It's the kind of fussy and ornate prose I can savor, rereading passages just to enjoy them, to keep hitting those emotional nuances. I can see how other readers might find the writing overly precious, but the playfulness and the sincerity and the flexibility of the voice really grabbed hold of me.

  • Angela Young
    2019-03-23 14:40

    This is the most wonderful novel. And it's a first novel which is extraordinary. I've come to it late (it was published in 2010) so I missed the buzz about it at the time, but I like that because it means I can make up my own mind without rave reviews raising my expectations. But it wouldn't have mattered. My expectations couldn't have been too high because The Still Point is a brilliant, lyrical, moving, thrilling, poetic, beautifully-observed, poignant (so much longing and yearning) novel about love and loss and waiting and finding the courage to say (or do) what must be said (or done), to resist temptation or to suffer in silence the consequences of saying (or doing) something in haste.It was recommended to me by my dentist's receptionist (she's the source of many of the best novel recommendations I've ever had: she introduced me to Salley Vickers back in the day of Miss Garnet's Angel, for instance. I'm dreading the day she retires). I was going to leave the novel with the friends I was holidaying with in France for others to find in their house. But I couldn't bear to. I have to have it near me. But I did tell all of them, many times, what a wonderful writer Amy Sackville is and I'll never stop telling people.The Still Point is glorious.

  • Grace Dobson
    2019-04-06 13:33

    This is a spectacular book which has to be one of my all time favourites - and it is a debut! The style is enrapturing as Sackville guides you around four main lives and shows you how physical separation can be as destructive as mental separation. Julia is trying to archive her great great grandfather's items whilst discovering herself only to find her heroine ancestor is not quite who she thinks and neither is she. During this we find Emily Mackley, a wife with a missing husband, who dutifully waits for him and has to cope as someone separate from her family in law. Meanwhile Edward Mackley travels the expanse of the Arctic, searching for one thing but aching to come home for another. Finally, Simon, Julia's husband finds that choices aren't easily made and searches for the answer on how he can bring himself closer to his wife. These stories are beautifully written and become entwined within another showing two separate tales of love with subtle differences. An incredibly poignant, powerful and beautifully written book will capture your heart in more ways than one, proving that in one day, that emotions have no boundaries and life is never perfect.

  • Terzah
    2019-04-02 08:47

    This book is the story of a turn-of-the-century British polar explorer who left behind a grieving young widow and of Julia, his great grand-niece, who has taken over living in the family home. Julia, whose own marriage is seriously fraying, is obsessed with her famous forebear, his wife and her long vigil. The book's events take place over the course of a long summer day, during which Julia will learn the true secret of her lineage and her husband Simon will make a key choice.I liked the premise of the book, and the descriptions of the Far North and the failed expedition that together form the center of Julia's obsession were occasionally compelling. But the "look, dear reader, at the paintings on the wall" language, which never let up, didn't allow me to forget that I was reading a careful facsimile of life and that these were not real people. Someone please send an editor next time.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-04-17 15:40

    I regret that I read this book in summer. It deserves a frozen landscape and several long days. The language is beautiful, and the way the story is told from a fly-on-the-wall kind of perspective, where sometimes you only catch glimpses of dialogue or story, or can only make assumptions from what is seen and known, is brilliant. There were definitely a few moments where I wanted to scream at the main character, because she seems trapped in this house that goes back several generations in her family, in the story of her great-grandparents, and doesn't really seem to have her own life outside of the interactions with her husband Simon, and even during those times she is living in her head and the recollections of the journals she has been reading. But it is her barely-there presence that makes the story so dreamlike, so in the end, I'm glad she isn't normal. (It does seem somewhat far-fetched that the dinner never burns...)

  • Jessica
    2019-04-12 09:49

    I love this book- her writing style and the unusual sense of perspective in the novel are fascinating, and the beauty of her descriptions, whether describing the frozen polar north or the heat of an English summer day, was entrancing. I usually find myself skimming a lot of descriptive passages, but with this I was absorbing every word and thinking about the book constantly when not reading it. Her style, and the plot is quite understated, and all the better for it. She deals well with problems and difficulties between people without ever resulting to cruelty or shock happenings. I recommend, and I'll be looking out for anything she writes in the future.

  • Niki
    2019-04-17 12:19

    This is clearly a year of reading beautiful books for me. I don't remember who suggested this book or who wrote about it otherwise I'd send them a very grateful thank you card. Smooth effortless evocative writing. The images jump right put of the page. Not to mention the smells and the feelings and, indeed, the temperatures. A brilliant book. I am positively swooning. It's going on my to-reread list.

  • Hilary Campbell
    2019-04-15 12:33

    I really loved this book. Beautifully written and loved the interweaving of two love stories. Also I am powerfully drawn to stories set in the mysterious and often dangerous lands of ice and snow. I gave my copy away in the hope of converting another reader. I miss it dreadfully and while I don't usually re-read books, I feel the need to have a copy in the house!

  • Mickey McCaffrey
    2019-03-29 14:23

    I’ve heard that the problem with conveying boredom is that you just might succeed.To clarify, let me point out that Amy Sackville’s novel, “The Still Point,” is not written to be boring—far from it. However, the novel follows the foremost character in the story, Julia, as she has a boring day. She and her husband, Simon, are on the rocks relationship-wise. For the bulk of the novel, they’re not in the same physical space, so the development of their relationship relies mainly on the subjective recollections of each character. Julia spends her day at home napping, reading dusty books, and ruminating. Simon spends his day at work distracted by thoughts of his marriage; as I said, pretty boring stuff.Despite the inaction of the main characters, Sackville’s descriptions of their environments consume you in a good way. She has a considerable talent for evoking the sights, smells, and temperature of a space—whether her characters find themselves in a dusty attic, traffic jam, or a frozen wasteland. She perhaps reaches for color-words a little too often, even twice in a sentence at times, but the overall effect captivates. The main characters aptly project a souring marriage, in which two people have clearly spent years filling the silences between them with sour assumptions. Without explicitly saying so, Sackville highlights how we can—given the space to do so—transform our partners’ quirks into failings, and eventually into full-blown, purposeful attacks on our sore spots. However, despite the solid observational skills and effective descriptions of the author, this book glaringly reveals its first-ness through the narrator. In an interview with The Guardian, Sackville said that she wove this story together from several short projects she had been working on—it definitely feels like that at times. To glue these separate parts together, she opts to use one of the most distracting narrators in recent memory. It’s especially unfortunate because you find yourself lost inside a scene that has been beautifully set up only to be ripped away by a superfluously direct address from the narrator. At times this feels less like reading a novel and more like being pitched a screenplay. If I hadn’t been reading this book as part of a school assignment, I would not have made it past the opening third of the story. For a first-time novelist, Sackville demands a significant amount of patience and good faith from her readers. With that said, I’m glad I finished the novel because it only gets better. She showcases behaviors and describes events first, then as she goes along, she establishes context for those behaviors and events which recasts their significance and meaning—for her readers if not her characters. First she gives the “what,” and then she gives the “why.”For some, this might seem like a teasing way to tell a story, but I enjoyed it because I agree that this is how people experience each other. We see behavior first, and we rationalize it. If it’s explained later, and we find the explanation plausible, we change our recollection of the event. If no explanation is ever given, we hang onto whatever rationale we initially concocted. It’s almost as if Sackville wants her readers to make faulty assumptions and have them dashed to pieces later. The first third of the book almost strictly shows Simon and Julia on an unremarkable morning. The first pages describe the unfriendly, unfamiliar way they treat each other and sets up the family history crowding the house they live in—a house that has been owned (and filled) by Julia’s family for generations. The middle section of the book mostly describes the arctic adventures of Julia’s great-great-uncle Edward. Even with the foreknowledge of his fate, Sackville crafts genuine suspense and curiosity right up to the end of his journey. On its own, it would make a strong short story, not unlike Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.” The final third of the book isn’t as strong as the middle. The two big twists, or reveals, are pretty tame. (Definite spoilers follow.) The first, that Julia’s great-great-aunt is actually her great-great-grandmother, should come as no surprise to any reader who has bothered wondering why Julia is so obsessed with a great-great-aunt. I think Sackville could have written an effective novel in which the first line broke this secret to Julia. It’s really hard to summon shock for a single moment of infidelity committed over a century ago by a person whose name Julia probably wouldn’t even know if she didn’t live in a veritable museum of family relics. Sackville’s final reveal makes some issues clear, but ultimately muddies others. Rather anticlimactically, the narrator points out that Julia had a miscarriage four years ago, and that she and Simon have never talked about it. While this contextualizes the psychological chasm widening between them, it potentially makes their relationship unbelievable. In the modern narrative, Sackville covers two nights, and on each of those nights, Julia and Simon have what seems like unprotected sex. What kind of couple can have intercourse so obtusely without acknowledging its major role in their years of dysfunction? It’s not that Simon and Julia are necessarily unbelievable as humans, but that the narrator seems to condemn them less than would be appropriate. Sackville forgives her characters their deep flaws for more than I ever could. For instance, both times Julia and Simon sleep together, she has been drinking heavily. The narrator doesn’t seem to mind or even suspect that this might not be a healthy relationship. People like this certainly exist, but they have drinking problems; they’re not the kind of people celebrated in novels with cute endings. This story practically ends on a happy note, but if I knew Julia and Simon in real life, I would worry about them. All in all, “The Still Point” is very much worth reading. You have to be patient and forgive its shortcomings, but her descriptions are wonderful, and this novel marks an exciting start for what I hope will be a long writing career. This book probably won’t make it into literary anthologies, and I can’t imagine I’d read it again, but I believe Sackville’s future work will endure if she drops the goofy narrator, criticizes her characters more firmly, and boldly embraces the tension created by genuine, life-changing scandals.

  • Ron Charles
    2019-04-14 14:31

    The quest for the poles has long exercised a magnetic pull on all kinds of writers. It was the subject of Edgar Allan Poe's only novel and Charles Dickens's most popular play. Intrepid storytellers have trekked across the white page to tell the frostbitten tales of such real-life explorers as Sir John Franklin or to juice up the historical record as Dan Simmons does in "Terror" (2007). The wintry mix of courage, endurance and madness makes writing stories of polar exploration as tempting as licking a frozen doorknob.The newest writer to venture into this realm is a young British woman named Amy Sackville. Her first novel, "The Still Point," captures all the bizarre extremes of the North Pole, from the face-freezing temperatures of the Arctic to the overheated romance of the endeavor, from bracing adventure to stultifying dullness. But her real interest is the predicament of those left behind by these obsessed heroes. How, she asks, can any of us go about our tepid lives in the shadow of men who lived, however briefly, at the top of the world?The novel, long-listed for England's Orange Prize, takes place in a single summer day at the ancestral English home of Simon and Julia. He's a bit of a prig -- all punctuality and sharpened pencils -- who goes off to the office with his tightly repressed irritations, while his wife makes an effort to keep busy around the house, pursued by anxieties about her marriage and her mental health. The nod to Virginia Woolf's famous novel seems intentional, although Julia is a less complicated figure -- let's call her "Mrs. Walloway" -- lounging through the rooms in "a comforting dawdle" that barely masks her depression. The great risk in representing boredom, of course, is that you may succeed . . . and Sackville puts far too many convincing pages up front.But once the story gains a little momentum, "The Still Point" becomes increasingly engaging. Julia is the great-grandniece of Edward Mackley, a late-19th-century explorer who died trying to reach the North Pole. She was raised on the tale of his bravery, but what made an even deeper impression is the burnished image of his wife, Emily, who said goodbye to her new husband and then waited, Penelope-like, for decades. "This is the legacy that Julia owes a debt to," Sackville writes, "both the legend of the figure in the snow, and the woman left behind who shaped the legend while she waited."And so Julia spends her listless days trying to organize Mackley's artifacts in the attic and reading over his travel logs, but mostly she fantasizes about the immaculate passion between him and Emily. "Waiting, serenely, with a pale ache," Julia thinks. "Desire over great distances: this is the romance of the story, Emily's legacy. Emily waiting, waiting, the sea growing wider and hardening to ice as she stretched out towards him, watching him grow distant." Their "great romance," unfettered by no more than a few weeks of actual contact with each other, glows with the kind of purity that makes Julia's marriage seem disappointing, even tedious.If all that subtle domestic drama leaves you a bit cold, the novel's second part burns far more bright. Here we follow Edward Mackley and his crew toward the North Pole, through the congealing sea into the crystalline graveyard: "They smashed a way through or found gullies between, until they gave up on negotiating routes and allowed the ice to grip and release her at will, knowing she could stand it. At dawn and dusk, a daily cycle, it rolled and piled in extraordinary forms all about them; the men on deck saw mountains, monsters and beasts rise and topple, abstract complex geometries, gigantic crystals glinting off every surface and smashing slowly into glittering facets." We know their fate from the start, but it's still thrilling to read about the "months of dull civility before barbarity set in." Sackville's narration of this slow-motion disaster grows ever more gripping as these once-idealistic men are forced to relinquish their dogs, their tents, their fingers.As Julia rereads this record and swoons again at the thought of her great-great-aunt writing hopeful, unmailed letters to Edward, she considers the tragedy of everything she and Simon can't express. "The things they do not say only grow louder with time," she thinks, "no matter how neatly the towels are stacked, how clean the sheets."Although Sackville is only 29, she already knows a lot about the tension of a marriage gone fallow, particularly between two people who, despite their mutual irritations, still love each other. As the day progresses, Julia's romantic ideal suffers a terrible blow, and it looks as if Simon might finally give up on his languid wife, but evening brings surprises and the promise of a new affection that's better than any sepia-toned legend.Let her develop a more efficient itinerary, and with this lovely style, an intelligently romantic voice, and the ability to handle modern and historical settings, Sackville will write an even more powerful novel next time.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

  • J
    2019-04-09 08:41

    Remember, one man's bookflap summary may be another man's spoiler.This story is structured as an interesting counterpoint between a lethal frozen arctic environment and the environment of a lush, breeze-blowsy British home garden in summer. A third middle ground is the museum-like inherited house with garden, in which the central character, Julia, resides after making minimal changes to her deceased relatives' furnishings and minutiae.The arctic-vernal opposites are united by a moths motif: lifeless specimens of pale moths collected from the Arctic that hang in Julia's house and live specimens flitting in her garden. She's an archivist attempting to write a family history centering on her near-famous now-obscure great uncle, Edward Mackley.Edward Mackley is a secondary protagonist. He has made it worthwhile for Julia to compile a family history by having been an English explorer who died during a failed attempt to reach the North Pole. His widow, Emily, lived the rest of her life as a childless widow in the house Julia now owns.The story's action transpires within a one summer day in Julia's life, though it also recaps the short marriage of Edward and Emily (the two had parted shortly after their wedding for Edward to undertake his near-miss polar expedition, from which he was to return a hero) as well as Emily's subsequent lengthy, lonely life. Edward had died in 1901, as I recall without looking it up, (just after turn of century, anyway), though his death was not confirmed until a handful of crew members were rescued several later.And it was only decades later, near the end of Emily's life, that subsequent explorers found Edward's actual icy, buried corpse, and retrieved for the widow several mementos including Edward's journal.The "still point" refers not just to the famous T.S. Eliot poem, but also and first, to the North Pole itself, which is a point that keeps "still" while the fat portion of the globe revolves below. Second, it points obliquely to the notion that the young bride Emily kept the rest of her life on hold.Further, I see it applying to a standstill that has developed in Julia and Simon's marriage, perhaps mainly out of the inertia of predictable routines. But later on we can add miscarriage as another reason for the holding pattern.Life harshly jolted Emily in her 80s, when she was finally able to read the uncensored and increasingly bleak thoughts recorded in a journal by her young and ultimately dying husband. Likewise, Julia receives a life jolt when a male cousin to whom she is not close visits her for late tea, on the same particular summer day she's been rooting through the attic for more clues about Edward and Emily.In the end, we learn that artifacts -- such as Edward's moth collection or journal -- aren't everything. Sometimes we absolutely need word of mouth to access truths that are unrecorded, unphotographed, un-taxidermied. The family past into which Julia has been immersing herself isn't entirely what she thinks.As a minor criticism, I didn't like the mannered moments when the author chooses to talk directly to the reader. For example, Sackville literally invites us to look at Julia and Simon asleep together at night. The device harks back to old-fashioned storytelling (Victorian-like? the era of the young Edward and Emily?), in the midst of a tale told modern.I did appreciate that the author doesn't force the story's "big reveal" to totally cure Julia's stalled marriage, though it does offer hope. Story ends in a quiet sign of revival.

  • Jürgen Zeller
    2019-04-19 15:21

    "Der Ruhepol der sich drehenden Welt liegt über ebenjenem Pol um den wir alle kreisen. Er gleicht einem Heiligtum, einer Konstante und Menschen mit einem Traum und grossem Tatendrang haben grosse Qualen gelitten um ihn zu erreichen. Die ganze Welt richtet sich nach ihm aus und das Gradnetz orientiert sich an diesem Fixpunkt."Die eine Erzählung, die in der Vergangenheit spielt, handelt von Edward Mackley, einem (fiktiven) berühmtem Polarforscher der kurz nach der Jahrhundertwende auf einer Expedition zum Nordpol spurlos verschwunden ist und im saphirblaufunkelnden Eismeer seine letzte Ruhestätte gefunden hat. Nur das unendliche, geduldige Schweigen der Arktis kennt seine letzten Gedanken und Handlungen vor seinem Tod. Er hinterlässt eine sehnsüchtig auf seine Rückkehr wartende Emily und man erzählt sich heute noch die Familiengeschichte vom Mann im Eis und Schnee und von der Frau, die zurückblieb und beim geduldigen Warten auf ihn ungewollt eine kleine Legende erschuf."Es ist auch ohne die Einmischung der Zukunft anstrengend genug der Vergangenheit, die die Gegenwart durchdringt, habhaft zu werden."Julia ist die Urenkelin von Edward Mackley und sie hat ihren Job gekündigt und sich zur Aufgabe gemacht die Fragmente ihres Erbes zu sichten und zu ordnen. Mit einer tröstlichen Gleichförmigkeit sitz Julia auf dem Dachboden inmitten von Patina überzogenen Kisten und Edwards und Emilys unsortierten Habseligkeiten. Anstatt sich dieser Aufgabe mit Entschlossenheit anzunehmen hat sich ihr Leben zu einem geruhsamen Trödeln durch die Zimmer ihrer Kindheit verlangsamt. Verträumt sichtet sie alte Truhen, liest Briefe und verliert sich hoffnungslos in Gedankenspielen. Zwischendurch von der Frage belastet ob sie das Richtige tut und wozu es gut sein soll uralten Staub aufzuwirbeln. Ihr entgehen aber die ersten Risse ihrer Ehe mit Simon...Die erstaunlich junge Autorin, Jahrgang 1981, belegte an einer Londoner Universität einen Creative & Life Writing Kurs. Und es ist genau jener Sprachstil für den man für verschieden Literaturpreise nominiert wird. Unglaublich dicht und verschnörkelt, der Text filigran, nuanciert durchsetzt mit zahlreichen Adjektiven werden reihenweise zu Herzen gehende Wortschöpfungen kreiert. Es gibt in diesem Roman fünfzehn, zwanzig oder noch mehr kleine Passagen die für sich genommen anbetungswürdig sind. Aber es ist auch eine Sprache die mich vom Inhalt abgelenkt und etwas den Lesefluss genommen hat. Der Erzählstil ist eine schmale Gratwanderung zwischen einer poetisch-eindringlichen Emotionalität der aber phasenweise in banale Trivialität abgleitet. Bei jedem Leser verläuft diese Grenze anderes und je nach dem wo sie sich befindet wird die Geschichte die Leserschaft spalten.Die ersten Hälfte des Romans hat mich begeistert, ja geradezu euphorisch habe ich die lyrisch anmutende Sprache gelesen und genossen. Im Verlauf der Geschichte hat sich meine Begeisterung leicht abgekühlt und ich habe mich mehr auf den Sprachstil als auf den Inhalt fokussiert. Die Sprache ist denn auch die unsichtbare Kraft die die Geschichte zusammenhält. Für Leser die eine poetische Erzählung mögen ist dieses Buch eine Entdeckung, inhaltlich hätte man rückblickend wohl etwas mehr daraus machen können. Insbesondere die Gegenwartsgeschichte mit Julia und Simon hätte etwas mehr Hintergrund und Tiefe gut angestanden. Ein Roman den man in aller Ruhe und Entspanntheit geniessen sollte. Insgesamt ein sehr vielversprechendes Debüt einer jungen Autorin die ich im Auge behalten werde und diese Geschichte ist allemal vier Sterne wert.

  • Deborah Pawley
    2019-04-01 13:49

    An astoundingly poignant debut novel full of crisp coldness & icy terror. Written mostly from the perspective of a third person looking in on the lives of the characters, it feels as though you are a silent spy, prying into the intimacies of the characters lives: You are padding softly through Julia's ancestral home, avoiding the creaking floorboards and nestling in the shadows as she loses herself in the frozen adventures of her Arctic exploring forebears. Sometimes you are standing in the perfumed garden, stretching on tiptoes to gain a view through a lit window. It reminds you of a living dolls house and you feel embarrassed for your voyeurism; but the thrill and the intrigue is too strong to overcome. Then the page turns & you are transported into the shockingly harsh & barren landscape of Edward's failed Arctic exploration. Feeling chilled to the core you share his hopelessness & his painful and heartfelt memories of the woman who waits for him in the very home you just left her great-granddaughter in. It was so easy to lose myself in this beautifully executed novel & I particularly loved it's unique perspectives ... the third person looking in juxtaposed against the innermost thoughts of the characters; coupled with the desperate prose of Edward's diary as he realises his Arctic dreams are coming to an dark and foreboding denouement.Simply beautiful.

  • Ivan Salcedo
    2019-03-27 11:22

    An odd book to recommend. It is effectively a series of romance plots, structured as an inner voyage of discovery that in turn describes and revolves around a (very physical) voyage of discovery. It is a novel about nobility and stubbornness, love and loss, how the past shapes us and how we shape the past. A series of metaphors run through the book - the title - (literally) the inability to pin things down - colours etc, which are perhaps over used by the end of the book.The language is intricate, precise and often beautiful. It can, however, be a hard read, with its ornate and archly knowing wordplay - the constant addressing of the reader's attention to this or that detail - the feeling of displacement in time (this is not a 'modern' book).My main criticism is that at times it feels like the author is writing for a very specific audience (and we are not it). Or at least I am not it. However, having puzzled my way through the opening pages I did enjoy the skill and imagination, and it is ultimately a satisfying read.

  • Lam Yuen Ting
    2019-04-06 11:48

    I came across this book by chance in the library and am glad for it. The author, Amy Sackville, has a very unique, rich and intense way with words and this novel is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf's classicMrs. Dallowayin its rich detail and weaving of different eras in time all into one unfailing day. Loved how the author delivered sentence after sentence, almost unrelentlessly, of beautiful descriptions of the Arctic north until these are driven deep into the reader's mind and the cold can almost be felt in one's fingers as we journey with the book's characters further and further north. The only minor downsides I felt were that the storyline was interesting, but not that gripping or original. The author also doesn't seem to do emotions very well, so the novel feels very "cold" throughout even though the themes conveyed are supposed to be longing, waiting, and eventually, heartbreak. Still, I highly look forward to more work from this promising young British author.

  • Val
    2019-03-23 12:49

    Dreamy, disorganised Julia spends the day trying to make a start on cataloguing and organising her great-great uncle Edward's collection of souvenirs from his Arctic explorations, musing on her family history and rarely wondering about her almost pathalogically well-organised husband, Simon. As in many novels which feature a historical relationship and a present day one, there is a revelation about the past which has some bearing on the present.The writing style is languorous, full of visual description and imagery, which suits Julia and makes Simon even more dull in comparison with heroic, legendary, dead Edward than he might otherwise appear. The more interesting contrast is between their wives, Julia has a romantic fantasy of Emily waiting patiently and placidly for her missing Edward, perhaps using it as an excuse for her own lethargy, while Emily is shown more as an active woman trapped by her circumstances.

  • Norah Mcmeeking
    2019-03-20 14:38

    I enjoyed this book very much and found the writing captivating. The descriptions of "everyday" surroundings verged on the poetic, making it almost a physical pleasure to read. This writer is a recent MA in Creative Writing, so the structure of the book is apparent and she finds several ways to return to her theme--the still point (the place where you are holding still and the universe rotates around you). The book is a contemplation, not a plotted adventure--though polar exploration plays a big role, there are more thrilling accounts of those journeys. I can't praise the writing itself enough. This book is very "internalized" and perfect for a lazy read. I look forward to seeing this author mature and expect that her books will get better and better.I think The Still Point would make an excellent choice for a book group of mixed-age women, to discuss it's views of love and marriage seen through the eyes of a youthful woman.

  • Jay
    2019-04-14 08:44

    Hard to believe it's her first novel. I'm not keen on reading about foolhardy explorers, nor do I usually enjoy elegaic prose, but it was so well written in this instance that I overcame both those obstacles and was very impressed. It's the kind of book where I find myself wondering about various aspects of the characters for a day or two after finishing, which is always a good sign. It's also the kind of book where every word demands to be read. I usually speed read, and will deliberately miss chunks of narrative if they don't interest me, particularly descriptive narrative (yawn). Again, however, I was pleasantly surprised because there was plenty of descriptive narrative and I didn't want to skip any. To summarise: not my kind of thing at all usually, but Sackville writes so beautifully that I was captivated.