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The Offing by Benjamin Myers - Review

Monday, December 20, 2021

I was given this book last Christmas by Lee's brother and his girlfriend, they thought I would like it and the main character is from Durham as Lee's family is so I get why they liked it. I keep a list of books I got for Christmas and my birthday, and I try to get through them before Christmas and my birthday roll around again. In 2021 I've managed about half of them... We'll see what I get for Christmas! Hah. 

Anyway, this book is set in 1946 just after the end of World War Two. Robert, from a Durham village somewhere near Sunderland, has just finished his exams and left school. He will probably follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and start work as a miner, but before that he wants to go travelling down into North Yorkshire to see a bit of the world. He sets off with not much more than a tarpaulin and a sleeping bag. He finds a few days work at some farms along the way. He intends to go somewhere around Whitby and Scarborough, and wants to swim in the sea. 

On the way he finds a small cottage, the meadow around which is basically eating it, and its owner, Dulcie. She is an older lady, taller than Robert, and she has led a weird and wonderful life. Over the next few weeks, she persuades Robert to stay, sleeping first in the meadow and then in a small summer house on the grounds. She feeds him well, giving him his first taste of lobster and of brandy. She has connections which mean that the rationing going on all over the country doesn't seem to apply to her. She has a wine cellar. She lends Robert books and encourages him to read poetry. She tells him he could go to university. 

Robert is determined to pay his way, so he starts cleaning up the summer house. He wants to hack down the weeds which obscure the view of the sea, but Dulcie is angry with the sea and won't let him. He begins to uncover the truth about her life and the great love of her life. 

The book is written from the perspective of an older Robert, and by the end it's clear exactly who he has become. I liked the lyrical quality to the words and to the descriptions - I could exactly imagine the cottage and the village that Robert walked through to get to the sea. I liked Dulcie and was sympathetic towards her. I loved how Robert's life turned out.

I'm giving this four out of five.

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