The Offing

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

With our current political preoccupations concerning citizenship, immigration and nationality there’s a lot of talk about borders. (What borders will be formed between the UK and Europe?) But in Benjamin Myers’ recent novel “The Offing” the borders directly referenced are invisible lines in the natural environment. The title refers to “That distant stretch of sea where sky and water merge. It’s called the offing.” These are borders that we only imagine exist because of our subjective point of view. And the novel begins with 16 year old Robert Appleyard stepping out of the borders of his small Northern coal mining town, the place where he’s been raised to believe he should spend his life working in the pits that men in his family have toiled in for generations. But he’s determined to see something of the world first. What he discovers is a point of view and way of seeing which is very different from what he’s known in his circumscribed existence. During his journey he meets and befriends Dulcie, a reclusive and highly-cultured older woman who doesn’t play by society’s rules. Myers presents in this beautiful tale conversations which cross borders of class, gender, sexuality and nationality to speak about the importance of preserving our individual voice and creative spirit – especially during times of political strife. 

The novel begins like a fable or quest story where a young man embarks out into the unknown and this gives it a timeless feeling at first. I know from reading Myers’ brilliant novel “Beastings” that his prose frequently gives a sense that the story could have occurred in any time or place. But, as Robert encounters more people, he sees families who have lost sons in the war and there’s talk of fighting Hitler. It’s interesting getting a story set around WWII where the characters are so removed from it but still feel the reverberations of its impact. Robert is puffed up with nationalist spirit, but Dulcie cautions him against categorizing groups of people solely on their national identity. She explains how it leads to otherness and borders between people which leads to war: “Nationalism is an infection, Robert, a parasite, and after years of recession many were willing hosts.” Although this isn’t an overtly political novel, I found it really powerful how Myers describes ways of seeing beyond the rhetoric of government and social structures to show how these are illusions. 

This point of view is embodied in the character of Dulcie who is so spirited and funny while having a sometimes spiky edge and a secret past. I felt really sympathetic to the narrator because I would have similarly gravitated to and been eager to learn from someone like Dulcie who casually refers to her close acquaintance with Noel Coward. I enjoy how their friendship develops in tentative steps as both Robert and Dulcie are guarded with their feelings and hesitant to admit they need other people. Myers is excellent in capturing the subtly of emotions in characters who aren’t very outwardly emotional. There’s also a dramatic tension which builds as the mystery surrounding Dulcie grows when an unpublished manuscript of poetry is unearthed. 

Another great strength of this novel is in the evocative and poetic way it describes the natural world – which is another consistent characteristic of Myers’ writing. Not only is Robert’s journey through the English landscape beautifully described, but it’s a form of tunnelling into history and shows it to be a repository of the past: “the cliffs were in a perpetual state of reshaping, where chimneys and scarps and shelves periodically fell crumbling, and where time was marked not by years or decades or centuries, but by the re-emergence of those species trapped in the clay here: the ammonites, haematites and bracken fronds pressed flat between the pages of past epochs. Each was a bookmark placed in Britain’s ongoing story, and the land itself was a sculpture, a work in progress.” I admire how this positions the landscape not as a possession to be claimed and fenced off, but an artwork which is shaped by inhabiting it. 

Reading “The Offing” I got that satisfying sensation where my curiosity gradually built to a rapt attention and I felt wholly enveloped and charmed by the story. It speaks poignantly about the importance of moving beyond the life which you’re assigned to discover who you really are and what you want. It’s also a tribute to the enduring power of poetry.
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A humble and uplifting story about an unlikely friendship. I loved it. I’d be really surprised if it didn’t make my top 10 at the end of the year.
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Ben Myers love of landscape, especially that of the north of England, shines through in this elegiac novel.  A story of a young man falling in love with words and poetry via an expected friendship, beyond the confines of school  and work. A lovely book.
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The formatting in the Kindle edition made the book unreadable and meant that I was unable to make it beyond the first few pages. I'm therefore not able to leave a meaningful review.
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The offing is set shortly after the Second World War in England. We follow our main character 16 year old Robert who is travelling round the countryside working on farms before he starts down in the coal mines. 

He meets an older lady called Dulcie, the pair strike up an unlikely friendship. 

I thought the book was a lovely, heartwarming read. The writing was beautiful and even though the story is quite short I thought it was simply perfect. 

There was a few errors in the book, which could have been when downloading it from netgalley but other than that it was a wonderful little find. 

Thank you to Bloomsbury publishing & netgalley for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Set shortly after the Second World War, this is a story about a 16 year old chap, Robert, who leaves his mining town home for the summer to go on a wander, delaying for a little while the inevitability of having to take up work in the coal mines of North East England. After labouring here and there for a day or two at a time Robert nears a village on the North Sea coast and comes across a slightly rundown cottage that faces the sea and is owned by a rather eccentric older lady called Dulcie Piper.  Dulcie comes across as a game old bird but she hides a deep sadness. What follows is a simple but beautiful story of an unlikely friendship that is the perfect read for balmy summer days.
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The Offing is a short and perfectly formed novel, ostensibly about an old man looking back on his youthful journey from a mining village in the NE to meeting an older bohemian lady outside Robin Hood’s Bay and their developing friendship, but really a novel about the power of poetry, nature and taking the opportunities life offers.

I’ve seen reference to this being a ‘safer’ book then Myers earlier works — that may well be true, but the book is powerful, emotional and inspiring. I suspect there will be phrases that linger in my mind in the long term.
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I always like a Wanderlust book, and this one is written in such an endearing poetic language that, like on a ramble, you often stop, pause and muse about what you are seeing.
Sixteen-year-old Robert Appleyard from a Durham mining family who, in an attempt to escape the generational pull into the mines is simply starting out on a long walk. It is the raw time in the aftermath of the second world war and Robert, as a through-and-through outdoorsey person, revels in the landscape he encounters. He earns a meagre living as a casual worker whilst pursuing his route towards Robin Hood Bay. He chances upon Dulcie Piper, an older woman, a herbalist, an eccentric, a philosopher with views on religion: “‘I’m of the opinion that religion is nothing but end-of-the-pier hocus-pocus.”
They certainly present an odd couple - with undertones of “Harold and Maude”. So I happily skipped along to the story until...my theory is that every publisher coerces their authors to throw in a little Third Reich to up the sales figures ...and here it was: Dulcie and her great monologue about her friend/lover, the German poet Romy Landau, a lecture like addressed to a small wide-eyed child. I’m afraid I could not get comfy with Dulcie’s relationship with Romy or indeed Romy’s poetry, but that may be entirely my fault. My favourite sentence spoken by Dulcie:
“Where once we built towers to heaven, now we build frumpy sweatboxes for pen-pushers.”
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A sublime book. Beautiful prose with two instantly credible characters who you cannot help but warm to (and a special mention for Butler the German Shepherd). The story took a little to get going but overall I would thoroughly recommend ... it felt to me like a mix of Lissa Evan’s Old Baggage and David Nicholls Sweet Sorrow. 

With thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for a copy in consideration of an honest review.
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An excellent book 
Superbly written and utterly engaging
There is nothing negative I can say other than why did it have to end

Best book I have read in a long time
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In spring 1946, 16-year old Robert sets off from a Durham mining village to see a bit of the world before he heads down the pits like his father and his father before him. Walking across North York Moors, he reaches Robin Hood Bay and there meets Dulcie Piper, an older woman with whom he stays over the summer, doing odd jobs and growing up. As the weather becomes warmer and days longer, the pair become friends, Robert contemplating his future and Dulcie coming to terms with her past. 

This is a marvellous coming of age story, quietly powerful and wonderfully written. Reading it put me in such a lovely mood that only the best books do. It is a perfect summer read, one to linger over and come back to. It is also so beautifully rooted in place, it made me long to return to North York Moors.  

One of my best books of the year, highly recommended. 

My thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing and Netgalley for the opportunity to read The Offing.
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This book completely stole my heart! 5 big stars as a Myers fan. I read several of his books, and I think not enough people are talking about this writer. He's a gem who can take you to another world with his enchanting writing. 
In this book, we follow a 16 year old boy Robert Appleyard short after WW2. He leaves his village wanting to explore the world a bit. He comes to Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire and meets a woman there called Dulcie Piper. Let's say Dulcie is a very interesting character, not your ordinary woman :) And enjoy the rest of the book!

I LOVED it, I can't say enough. Definitely one of my faves this year. The characters, their voices, the descriptions of nature in English countryside...There's so much to this book than I can tell you. It's such a beautiful coming of age story that captured my heart. It's amazing, just read it!

Thanks so much to the publisher and NetGalley for granting an early copy of this book. Opinions are my own.
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This is a beautiful book - and it is perfectly written. I would like if at all possible to go and spend a summer in Robin Hoods Bay with Dulcie myself. Thankyou so much for the opportunity to read this novel. It will stay with me for a long long time.
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Benjamin Myers is a seriously under-rated writer who deserves way more fame than what he has. He puts me in mind of Gordon Burn, his prose literally burns off the page and thrusts into your brain like a sharpened knitting needle. 

This story is a rather gentle affair but told from the perspective of a 16 year old boy in the shadows of WWII who decides to go walkabout and take in the lanes and valleys of England before a life of drudgery at a coal mine boxes him in.

Luckily, our narrator meets Dulcie, a woman who swears, wears trousers and curses freely as she speaks her mind. Dulcie slowly awakens a burning talent in our narrator, a talent for prose.

The story unfolds at a good pace and the prose pulls you to the next page, the characters are beautifully written and the imagery that Myers evokes is second to none, its his writing of the everyday that elevates his talent.

I devoured this book, the writing is in a class of its own and deserves to be read widely, he really is that good.

I am impatiently waiting his next book!
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Definitely my favourite book of the year so far. A delightful story, beautifully written. Highly recommended.
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A lovely read. I really liked Dulcie and enjoyed the references to nature. Definitely a book to read more than once.
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A beautiful book.

I must confess I adore books which eulogise a lost, perfect Summer. For me, 'The Offing' contained echoes of 'A Month in the Country' by J.L. Carr, and 'The Go-Between' by L.P. Hartley, which, as you probably already know, is a very good portent.

This particular Summer is shortly after the end of World War Two, and Robert Appleyard leaves his mining village to explore the world before following his father down the coalmine. When he arrives at Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire he meet an old woman called Dulcie Piper. Beyond that, the less you know about the plot the better. 

There's so much to enjoy in this book that I raced through it. I intend to read it again more slowly. By the end I had a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat.

Wonderful.

5/5
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A simply beautiful book. Benjamin Myers captures what has been missing from modern literature for a long time. His description of English countryside, weather, people and the passing of time would be enough but there is also the wonderful poetry and a coming of age story that will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned.  
Get your hands on this novel and recommend it to anyone you know who appreciates a good book.
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