By Zehra Cranmer
The Still Point is Sackville’s debut novel after leaving her job working as an editor with an illustrated books publisher to pursue her love of literature and ended up doing an MA in creative writing at Goldsmiths. This is a story which stretches and rests over a chasm of time, a North Pole expedition led by Edward Mackley on one end and his great- great niece, Julia in Suffolk at the other. Julia is desperately trying to organise her family’s history into some form of cohesion but her illusions become shattered when she discovers that everything is not as it seems. Instead of focusing on her own situation, a strained one between herself and her husband, she chases after her uncle and his new wife Emily by focusing on what seems to be the perfect romance.
Sackville, on a number of occasions has mentioned her admiration of Virginia Woolf and her use of stream-of-consciousness, which is the method that Sackville herself has turned to. Just as Woolf set Mrs Dalloway on one day in the life of a woman who reveals her entire life to us in that one day, Sackville has used and omniscient narrator to focus on one day in the life of Julia and her husband Simon. In that one day, we discover that their marriage is going through difficulties, but neither one is able to talk to the other. Running throughout this story is the story of Edward Mackley through his journals and artifacts, which transports us from the heat of an English summer day to the freezing temperatures of the arctic.
Sackville’s language and style is poetic as yet there is an odd chill to the writing. It is not stagnant, yet it is restrictive. The chill, I have concluded is coming from the writer herself, not intentionally possibly but from the obvious hard work that has been put into the style of writing, there is something forced about it. I leant this book to a friend of mine, out of curiosity of what she thought of it as I enjoyed it thoroughly, and she told me something rather interesting, she thought the author was a man and every time she saw the picture of Sackville on the book jacket, she was shocked. I found the opposite to be true strangely enough. When reading a novel I enjoy the seamless feeling between the text and the sex of the author, but I found this text rather feminine, unlike any of Woolf’s work, and therefore accentuating Sackville’s unique style..
Julia seems to be stuck in some form of depression as she turns to the love between Edward and Emily as her own marriage lacks passion or any real understanding. This brings one to question whether a beautiful story, of quintessential England on one side and the over romanticising of the North Pole on the other, is enough. All that I can say is that is sufficient enough. It was a wonderful read, especially the segments that lead us all the way to the North Pole, yet the reader is left desiring more. We yearn to dig deeper, for that is in our nature.