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!


  1. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this, Verity. I am still savouring reading it!

    I'm not sure whether entrance for one prize makes you ineligible for the other Orange prize ... we'll find out tomorrow. I'm still shocked that Evie Wyld wasn't on the Orange longlist so maybe she'll be nominated for he new writers prize? Both she and Amy Sackville completed the same Creative Writing course at Goldsmiths.

  2. That's another one for the wishlist!

  3. I've got this one on my pile - I fell in love with the cover, and it sounds like I will like what's inside too.

  4. Clearly many people, Orange Prize judges included, who have read this have been really taken with it. I heard it in abridged form on the wireless. (I used to love calling the radio the wireless because it sounded quaint. I fear that may not longer be the case now that everything these days is wireless, but I digress.) Whilst I was reasonably interested in it, I wasn't blown away with enthusiasm. Perhaps this is one that really needs to be appreciated on the page - with no offence intended to the abridger should she happen to read this!

  5. Really looking forward to reading this one!

  6. Claire - well, she didn't get nominated again for that, which is a shame as I think she shows real potential! I wish I had savoured it a bit more!

    Cornflower - absolutely!

    Gaskella - it is a rather lovely cover too - I've been impressed with a lot of the Orange prize covers.

    David - I think it is something that would be better on paper than on the radio; I think some of the richness of the writing would be lost if you couldn't look at it.

    Claire - I hope you get to read it soon!

  7. Yes, but I am delighted that Evie Wyld was recognised! Coincidentally, one of the other books was already being sent to me for review.

    I had a look at the eligibility rules and you can be entered for both so it is unusual that there is less overlap (albeit different judges).

  8. Claire - yes I saw that and was surprised about lack of overlap. I think The book of fires is the one that appeals to me most from the shortlist, though guess it is the other one that you have to review!

  9. No, it is actually The Book of Fires!

  10. I loved this one, but I also wonder why debut novelists can be nominated for the main list. Also why is the New Writer shortlist so short and why is there no longlist? So many questions (I really just want more reading list suggestions).

  11. Jodie - I agree it's a shame that the new writers list isn't longer! I'm going to read from previous longlists over the next few months so maybe that will give you some inspiration...


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