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It wasn't difficult to believe (as some schools did far worse) that praying publicly for certain pupils and their families happened then.

The tidal flow of the river, the rise and fall of the boats, the mud along the river bank – the interactions of her characters come together to create a wonderful sense of time and place.But if Edward does not want to live on Grace, why doesn't Nenna sell up and go to live with him instead? He noted that the group portrait of the boat owners within the novel is constantly developing, change and flux being the essence of the book, with the author moving between the strands of the story with insouciant wit and ease.

I can only assume Nenna and Richard feel a stronger inexplicable affinity with the watery element than I. The main characters are Nenna (only 32, but with daughters Martha, 12, and Tilda, 6); Maurice, a young gay man making ends meet as a prostitute; Willis, an old marine painter, whose boat is in need of sprucing up; boat-proud Woodrow (Woodie); and Richard, a natural leader, ex-navy, now working in insurance, with the biggest, smartest boat. Fitzgerald's cast of characters in this Booker Prize novella are a motley group of people living in converted barges and small craft moored by the banks of the Thames, rising with the tide then sinking back into the mud. Penelope Fitzgerald's Booker Prize-winning novel of loneliness and connecting is set among the houseboat community of the Thames and has a new introduction from Alan Hollinghurst. I feel I should be able to learn from this beautiful book, but it suggests diagnosis (which I'd already worked out), but no prescription.I was totally drawn into the atmosphere of the book, and the characters will stay with me for a long time.

This houseboat world is one which appealed to me when I was younger, before I realised that living in small cramped spaces with things sliding about on surfaces, wouldn't be idyllic, even if I stopped being a martyr to motion sickness. A princess, unknown to all about her, she awaited the moment when these bruises would reveal her heritage.The houseboats are permanently moored; their movement is limited to bobbing up and down on the tide. I felt like I was on a bus ride eavesdropping on multiple conversations, each interesting and incomplete. The everyday life of Fitzgerald with her husband and children on Grace sounds remarkably similar to that of their fictional counterparts, Nenna and her children. The advantages of youth, "Tilda cared nothing for the future, and had, as a result, a great capacity for happiness. The main narrative revolves around Nenna, a mother of two, living separated from her husband, Eddie, who simply refuses to live on the dilapidated barge she has purchased.

How the market for a marine painter has dwindled since the 1920s and 30s: "After the war the number of readers who would laugh at pictures of seasick passengers, or bosuns getting the better of the second mate, diminished rapidly. The setting is not exactly like the real-life location: for example, in the book the landmark Chelsea Flour Mills has been replaced by a non-existent brewery, and nobody ever mentions the enchanting sight of Albert Bridge lit up at night.

Yes, there is,’ Martha replied, with a firmness which she could hardly have inherited either from her father or her mother, ‘but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t go and look at things.

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