I ordered a copy of Amy Sackville’s The Still Point from the library after reading Kirsty’s review on her blog, The Literary Sisters. She talked about how Sackville’s prose reminded her of Virginia Woolf, which certainly piqued my interest, while the plot sounded intriguing too.
Taking place over the course of one day, The Still Point follows Julia as she continues with her task of organising the artefacts preserved in her family’s house belonging to Edward Mackley, a man who explored the Arctic and never returned home. Julia is intrigued by Edward’s story, especially that of his wife Emily who was left waiting for him to return. Alongside this, Julia is desperately trying to ignore the cracks which are beginning to appear in her marriage. Yet as the day continues, Julia makes a discovery which causes her to question what she has always believed about Edward and Emily, and subsequently, her own marriage.
The narrator of The Still Point has a ghost-like presence, being observing and all-knowing which means that the reader is too. We, along with the narrator, watch the action from the outside, almost like an extra character in the novel. The narrator may show us around the house while Julia is napping in the afternoon sun, for example, before bringing us back to her before she wakes. I don’t think I’ve read a book before where this technique has been used and it’s extremely effective in creating a full picture of these characters and their lives. It also allows Sackville to show us parallels between Julia’s day and her husband Simon’s, or between Julia and Edward. Some of these parallels did seem a little contrived at times but, on the whole, this worked well.
It is Sackville’s writing which I loved most about The Still Point. The prose is poetic, and certainly has similarities with Woolf – the parentheses, the attention to detail, the slipping between perspectives. Sackville’s descriptions fully and beautifully evoke the opposing settings in the book – the warm, musty corners of the old house, stuffed with objects from the Arctic, the warm summer’s day and the cooling evening. Likewise, she evokes the brilliant white of the snow, the hunger, the solitude, and the despair of being stuck in the Arctic.
The story of Edward and Emily is enchanting and, as well as Sackville’s writing, kept me turning the pages. While Julia and Simon’s story takes place during the course of one day, memories are recalled and Edward and Emily’s stories weaved through the book, meaning that The Still Point isn’t simply about a missing Arctic explorer and a family member sorting through the artefacts, but is a rich tale that has been beautifully told.
Have you read The Still Point? What did you think?