Resonating from remnants of the author's own curious life, this is the elegant story of an eccentric group of barge dwellers moored on the shore of the Thames at Battersea, London. Prompted by a leak on the Dreadnaught barge just as it is going up for sale, readers come to realize how fully this community, who live neither on land nor sea, are anchored to each other in friendship and self sacrifice. Winner of the 1979 Man Booker Prize, and reprinted to coincide with the recent highly acclaimed Fitzgerald biography by Hermione Lee, this is a literary gem of the 20th century that is an endlessly yielding reading experience!— Jane Glaser
On the Battersea Reach of the Thames, a mixed bag of the slightly disreputable, the temporarily lost, and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the great river’s tides. Belonging to neither land nor sea, they cling to one another in a motley yet kindly society. There is Maurice, by occupation a male prostitute, by happenstance a receiver of stolen goods. And Richard, a buttoned-up ex-navy man whose boat dominates the Reach. Then there is Nenna, a faithful but abandoned wife, the diffident mother of two young girls running wild on the waterfront streets.
It is Nenna’s domestic predicament that, as it deepens, draws the relations among this scrubby community together into ever more complex and comic patterns. The result is one of Fitzgerald’s greatest triumphs, a novel the Booker judges deemed “flawless.”
“A marvelous achievement: strong, supple, humane, ripe, generous, and graceful.” —Sunday Times