The Still Point

Amy Sackville

Published: 13 December 2010
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 320 pages
ISBN: 9781846272301


At the turn of the twentieth century, Arctic explorer Edward Mackley sets out to reach the North Pole and vanishes into the icy landscape without a trace. He leaves behind a young wife, Emily, who awaits his return for decades, her dreams and devotion gradually freezing 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 taking care 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 precipitous choice that will decide the future of their relationship. Sharply observed and deeply engaging, The Still Point is a powerful literary debut and a moving meditation on the distances - geographical and emotional - that can exist between two people.


‘[An] exceptional debut novel ... The book brilliantly captures the smell of snow, the crew's fear and elation, and the eerie beauty of the northern lights. But Sackville's real terra incognita to explore is domestic life. She writes like a younger Rachel Cusk, precise poetry undercut by dry wit and the omniscient narrator's gimlet eye for the small epiphanies and compromises of modern love’ Adrian Turpin



The Still Point, a story of turn-of-the-century arctic pioneering and contemporary emotional frozen states, has an Eliotic calm that seems almost uncanny in a debut writer, and a narrative voice that's subtle and original.’ Ali Smith

‘A lucid, lovely debut’

‘A melancholy, poetically vivid look at love and loss with a doomed Arctic expedition as a backdrop. These two shimmering narratives, both dealing with emotional distance, reflect and refract the feelings of abandonment, hope and fear that are so much a part of love and longing’

‘As iridescent in its writing as the snowy wastelands it evokes ... This is a novel of palpable promise ... there is no doubt about Sackville's talent as a painter of landscapes. Both the luminously desolate icescapes of the Arctic and the dusty cornices of the Victorian family home are depicted in their particular glory , more evocative for their juxtaposition’ Priyamvada Gopal

‘Beautifully written’ Daisy Goodwin

‘Exquisite, a debut full of spinning symmetries’ Claire Allfree

‘Extraordinary tales of early polar expeditions fuse together in a fictional re-creation of one such doomed voyage ... The two worlds of ice and heat, a century apart, are carefully balanced by the exquisitely restrained prose’ Catherine Taylor

‘Flicking her vivid narration between the dazzling landscapes of the frozen north and a languid, sticky-hot English summer, 28-year-old Sackville creates some soaring prose, full of elegance and confidence’ Claire Sawers

‘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’ Francis Spufford, author of THE CHILD THAT BOOKS BUILT

‘Sackville creates a vivid Arctic north’ Tom Cox

‘Sackville writes beautifully of the icy wastelands through the refractions of changing light ... The elegiac tone, reminiscent of Marilynne Robinson, emphasises human frailty, giving the breathless sensation of being underwater ... Sackville's style is ambitious but assured, invoking the aching melancholy of loneliness. However, it's the lyrical power to her language and the startling originality of her voice that really distinguish this fine new author.’ Freya McClelland

‘Sackville writes with great assurance and wonderfully evokes both the polar landscape and the atmosphere of the period. And I liked her interweaving of past and present. A most promising debut’ Penelope Lively

‘Sackville's novel is distinguished by almost dream-like prose that seems to waft above the surface of the page, and her way of contrasting the Arctic iciness with the oppressive summer heat while drawing parallels between the two eras.’ Alastair Mabbott

‘Spanning a single day, the novel's dream-like structure belies its linguistic and emotional precision ... a poised beginning’ Hephzibah Anderson

‘This wonderful, enthralling debut novel from Amy Sackville takes us through a present-day English midsummer day and the freezing cold of the Arctic night 100 years ago in search of a resting place, around which, like the eye of the hurricane, everything revolves - The Still Point’ Mary Mayfield

‘Winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys prize, Sackville's debut novel marries the story of a doomed polar expedition with the story of a modern relationship in stasis ... Sackville's dream-like but precise narrative shifts fluidly between the two worlds in a novel of elegant artifice and icy glamour.’ Emma Hagestadt

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