Monday, 12 April 2010
A week of Orange Wednesdays: The still point (Sackville)
I was very keen to read The still point by Amy Sackville - it was not a title I had come across until I saw it on the Orange longlist. My library was slow to get copies (I see it has some now, but with a hefty list of reservations), but Claire from Paperback reader kindly gave me a copy for my birthday! What a lovely and generous present.
I love to read presents straight away (although sometimes I like to save them), but it turned out that this was a book to be savoured, and I was extremely glad that I was not able to read it all in one go as I might have liked to have done. Both a wonderful and gripping story and an exquisite piece of writing, I think this is probably the book that I have enjoyed most from the Orange longlist (the debate being of course whether one can fully enjoy books like Hearts and Minds or This is how which are brilliant but ultimately quite grim).
The still point is a dual narrative; it tells the story of a day in the life of Anna, and her husband who live in London, intersperesed with the tale of Anna's great-great Uncle who was a doomed arctic explorer. Anna spends part of the day looking at letters and diaries from the expedition that he went upon, whilst reflecting on the effects that this had on her great-great Aunt Emily's life. At the same time, we see her and Simon thinking about the nature of their own relationship. Is it better to have a humdrum relationship, driven by the 9-5 grind and punctuated by dinner parties or one that is ripped apart by adventure?
Sackville's writing is so very lyrical that this book is an absolute pleasure to read for the writing as much as the story - and as I am a reader usually gripped by the storyline at the expense of the writing, I think this shows how special this book is.
One thing I'm wondering about - this is a debut novel. I wonder how it is decided whether a book will be entered for the main Orange prize or for the Orange new writers prize? I would be very disappointed if this book did not gain recognition somewhere!