I was so very excited about beginning Amy Sackville’s debut novel, The Still Point. As a physical object, the novel itself is beautiful, and I adore the way in which Portobello present their books. My excitement was piqued whilst reading a quote from author Francis Spufford on the back cover: ‘If Virginia Woolf had had a younger sister with a passionate interest in icebergs she might have written something like this beautiful, unearthly novel’.
The Still Point begins at the turn of the twentieth century, when Arctic explorer Edward Mackley sets out to reach the North Pole, and ‘vanishes into the icy landscape without a trace’. The novel itself opens with Edward’s great-great-niece Julia and her husband Simon, who have just moved into Edward’s old home, and who ‘dream in their own private arctics’. Julia is cataloguing all of his possessions which have not been moved out of respect for the such adored man who was lost. I love the way in which Sackville writes about her characters. She uses both the second and third person perspectives, and she also weaves in their own thoughts in italicised text. These three techniques help to build a complete picture of each protagonist whom she has envisioned, and every one of them comes to life before the very eyes in consequence.
Sackville’s descriptions set the scene and tone perfectly from the very first sentence. She sets out details of the ‘sultry summer’, which brings with it the window which has become ‘swollen in an old frame’, ‘the brown night’, and ‘the grapefruit freshness of the morning’. The prose which she crafts is nothing less than exquisite, and it can certainly be described as Woolf-esque at times. Houses and surroundings are used as characters in their own right, and I must say that I adore this technique when authors do so successfully, as Sackville undoubtedly does.
The Still Point is utterly beautiful, and is made up of so many layers of prose and plot. The story which Sackville has crafted is almost haunting at times. I did not want it to end; the words wove a spell around me, and each scene seemed to breathe with life. I cannot wait to read Orkney, Sackville’s second novel; I imagine that it will be just as stunning as her debut.