The Offing by Benjamin Myers
Published on 29th November 2021
Recently a friend recommended this book, The Offing by Benjamin Myers and I am grateful to her. The story is told by Robert and is set mainly in 1946, when he is sixteen years of age and sets out from his home in a coal mining village in Durham. He wants to see more of England before he starts working in the mines himself as did his father and grandfather before him. He walks as far as a village near Whitby in Yorkshire. There he meets Dulcie, an older, rather eccentric woman. Their backgrounds are very different, but they become friends, and Robert's horizon widens by what he learns during this summer.
Dulcie is an unconventional woman who lives an unconventional life. The war is only just over and still very much present in people's lives. It becomes clear that there is a tragedy in Dulcie's past, and a discovery made by Robert changes both his and Dulcie's lives.
This is a quiet book, and yet there is plenty of action. The characters also capture the reader's interest. Here we have sixteen year-old Robert, a somewhat dreamy youth on the cusp of adulthood, who has no particular liking for the work in the mines, but who will do as is expected of him. Before this will happen, he wants to experience some freedom, likely for the first and last time. He is a hard worker; while walking south, he works on farms to earn some money before moving on. He is well brought up, is polite and respectful. Then there is Dulcie, who might be around fifty, and who is direct in her speech, does not keep regular hours, and prepares wonderful meals with ingredients whose origins in these days of coupons mystify Robert.
Robert, with his short life behind him, and Dulcie, who has experienced pain, are able to have conversations which help them to see things from a different angle. This summer is a turning point for both of them.
Benjamin Myers has written an impressive book in beautifully rich and poetic language. Download the book on BorrowBox.
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Submitted by Walkinstown Library.