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Someone at a Distance (Persephone Classics) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: Persephone Classics
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Persephone Books; Revised edition (December 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906462003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906462000
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Born in 1893 in Lancashire, England, Dorothy Whipple wrote nine extremely successful novels, two of which were made into films. She also wrote short stories and two volumes of memoirs. She died in 1966. Nina Bawden is the celebrated author of Carrie's War, Peppermint Pig, and The Witch's Daughter, among others. A number of her works have been dramatized by BBC Children's television. She currently lives in London and Nauplion, Greece.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 13 customer reviews
Great style, great characters, great plot.
L. Leahy
They stayed with me even after finishing it and I found myself picking the book back up and rereading parts.
Mum K
Yet for all that the novel is bit of a disappointment.
Jay Dickson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jay Dickson VINE VOICE on December 28, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dorothy Whipple has been one of the authors Persephone Books has been most proud to re-dsicover, and the beautifully sharp prose in this 1950s novel will alert you immediately why she's been a favorite. Yet for all that the novel is bit of a disappointment. The plot seems reminsicent of Clare Booth Luce's THE WOMEN: a noble-minded wealthy married woman loses her weak and contempible husband to the clutches of a stylish and spiteful vixen, while her daughter suffers tremendously and her friends cluck and sympathize. Some of the characters are also quite hard to take. Anne, the sickeningly adorable daughter, carries on so much when her father is caught with the French interloper, Louise, that you begin to develop a perverse delight in her unhappiness; and all the male characters are wholly two-dimensional weaklings. With the older women characters, however, Whipple seems right on the money. The heroine, Ellen, is perhaps a bit too noble but is also observed with sympathy and skill, and Louise, the clear villain, is surprisingly well-drawn too. Whipple's ability to turn a memorable phrase is also consistent throughout.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on September 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
A marriage of over two decades is in danger, and the culprit seems to be the groom's own mother. "Someone at a Distance" is the story of Ellen and Avery North, a happily married couple with two children; all seems well with their life. But when Avery's mother arranges for a French girl to become a companion for him, it incites a long and confusing turmoil for everyone involved. Composed in an enthralling and realistic manner, "Someone at a Distance" is a must read story about the end of marital bliss.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Bell VINE VOICE on February 17, 2010
Format: Paperback
Dorothy Whipple's Someone at a Distance is a very complicated novel to write about. It's the story of the Norths, a suburban couple with two teenage children. Avery North's aging mother engages a young Frenchwoman as her companion, and he develops an attachment to her that develops into an affair and later leads to divorce from his wife Ellen. This novel is a stunning book about the wide-ranging effects an affair can have on several families.

Dorothy Whipple's language is very simple. Her prose is uncomplicated, yet there's a lot of meaning behind it. Her upper-middle-class English characters are all absorbed in their own mundane lives, until the arrival of Louise literally shakes them all up. Louise is obviously not meant to be a sympathetic character (unlike Ruth in Susan Glaspell's Fidelity); and at times she devolves into the stereotypical "other woman." Much more preferable is Ellen, the sensible English housewife who finds her life shattered during the after the divorce.

It's a sad subject, yet there are some truly funny moments; the surly Miss Daley going postal on Louise is an example that comes to mind. So in the end, each of the characters get what they deserve--even Avery, towards whom I feel a bit ambivalent. I feel as though he simply sat back and let things happen to him, rather than be an active member of the cast of characters.

It's interesting that I've chosen to read this book now, so shortly after reading another Persephone title, Fidelity--it's the story of an extramarital affair as told from the conventional point of view. Despite my feelings towards Avery and Louise, I though many of the other characters were well-drawn.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ophelia on January 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is heart warming to see a genuinely nice but wronged middle age woman rising above atrocities and rebuilding her life, relying only on her own wits and resources.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Topolino VINE VOICE on September 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully written book, truly heartbreaking in parts, one that you will not be able to put down. It's a rather simple story, about marital infidelity, and nothing really "happens" in the sense that this is really just a snapshot of people's feelings and reactions to an event they never expected in their wildest dreams.
There are a couple of semi-cliche characters, the "other woman" for example...she's even French for heaven's sake! But the rest are as vivid as if they were standing in front of you. Whipple is able to convey the emotions of every character from the teenage daughter to the housekeeper, even the "other woman" with incredible care, and ease.
This book most reminded me of reading Elizabeth Gaskell, quiet, elegantly written, insightful emotions.
I'm not sure why this gifted writer has been so ignored by the literature intelligencia...maybe they should look around more. Fortunately, Persephone Classics has published several of Whipple's books, and some other wonderful (mostly female) authors. I've already bought a couple!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mum K on March 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book was completely engrossing. I felt as if I knew each character. They stayed with me even after finishing it and I found myself picking the book back up and rereading parts.

The author makes you realize that even if we are happy things can change that. She shows all sides of the story.

I highly recommend it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. Leahy on September 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everything I have read by Dorothy Whipple I have found totally engaging, and this is no different. I wish they would put her books on Kindle!! She should be recognised as a classic women's writer. Great style, great characters, great plot.
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