“‘Are we to gather that Dreadnought is asking us to do something dishonest?’ Richard asked.”
I first read this book a few years ago in specifically addressing a desire to read all the Booker Prize winners. One of the issues with that task (other being kind of silly and useless) is that it puts some very very different books side by side as if there could be any kind of fair comparison among them. That’s true about the prize itself of course. It’s much harder in that context to figure out the specific quality of a single book. How do you compare near epic books like The Sea, The Sea, Midnight’s Children, Brief History of Seven Killings, Sacred Hunger, The Luminaries, and Siege of Krishnapur with small books like Moon Tiger, The Sense of an Ending, The Remains of the Day, The Sea, Hotel du Lac, and Life and Times of Michael K? It’s impossible.
Anyway, rereading this novel bore better fruit this time around. The book is small in scope and small in size and there’s context that was lost on me originally that was better supplied by the introduction to the novel by Alan Hollinghurst. The novel takes place in a small community of floating barges moored along the Thames in a neighborhood in London. It’s a community novel not unlike Cannery Row where the voices of the many are more present. It begins with a group meeting where one of the boats has asked the others to look the other way as he tries to sell the boat even with leaks. (I am using metonymy because the novel does).
From there we learns about he different stories being told here — a Canadian woman with near feral children waiting for an estranged husband to return; a man who uses his boat to conduct sex work; a painter.