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30th December 2009

“Beautiful, unearthly novel” to be Exonian’s literary debut

“If Virginia Woolf had had a younger sister with a passionate interest in icebergs, she might have written something like this beautiful, unearthly novel, in which the secrets of a house and of a marriage continually open out onto a wild glare of Arctic light” – this is the verdict of Francis Spufford, author of The Child That Books Built, on The Still Point.

Sharply observed and deeply engaging, The Still Point is a remarkable literary debut by Amy Sackville (2002, English Studies 1880-1960), examining the distances – geographical and emotional – that can exist between two people.

At the start of the twentieth century, Arctic explorer Edward Mackley sets out for the North Pole, only to vanish without trace into the icy landscape. His young wife, Emily, awaits his return for decades, while her dreams and devotion gradually freeze into rigid widowhood.

A hundred years later, on a sweltering mid-summer’s day, Edward’s great-grand-niece Julia moves through the old family house, attempting to impose some order on the clutter of inherited belongings and memories from that ill-fated expedition, and trying to ignore the deepening cracks within her own marriage. But as afternoon turns into evening, Julia makes a discovery that splinters her long-held image of Edward and Emily’s romance, and her husband Simon faces a choice that will decide the future of their relationship.

The Still Point will be published by Portobello Books in February, and is scheduled to be Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime for the fortnight beginning 25 January.

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