Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

Written in 1953, the last book by novelist Dorothy Whipple, Someone at a Distance is a story about the destruction of a marriage.

Ellen is “that unfashionable creature, a happy housewife” who loves her life in the English countryside.

She tends her garden, dotes on her children, and, when she remembers, visits her cantankerous mother-in-law.

This domestic bliss, however, is shattered when her husband, in a moment of weak mid-life vanity, runs off with a French girl.

Dorothy Whipple is a superb stylist, with a calm intelligence in the tradition of Elizabeth Gaskell.

My Review

Please note I originally read and reviewed this novel for Goodreads in 2016 and am now cross-posting it to my blog for posterity.

This is EXACTLY the kind of book I love to read; intelligent writing that is poignant yet witty, the perfect combination!

Someone at a Distance is one of those novels that overtime was forgotten and lay languishing in some dusty corner of the literary world until those wise people at Persephone Books reissued it as one of the books in their Classics series.

And how delighted I am that they did! I had never heard of the author Dorothy Whipple until I stumbled across this book in my library and she has fast tracked her way to my must-read authors list.

The story is a classic one.

It’s all about relationships; be it those within marriage and family or those within the community and the workplace. It’s about how they impact on who we are and on the decisions we make. It’s about their formation and their breakdown. It’s about how someone at a distance can affect the lives of people they never even meet. Cause and effect.

“They stood in the morning sunlight, looking at each other, and from her mother’s face she learned that the grown-up world was not what she had thought it was, not a place of power and fulfilment, but a place of helplessness, pain and ugliness. 
Until now, she had run joyfully forward, but now she was halted. She shrank back. She had learnt suspicion and distrust and most of all the fear of life that sickens the youthful heart and from which it takes so long to recover.”

This novel was first published in the early 1950s and has a lovely old world charm to it.

However it still feels relevant today because of the realistic characters and genuine emotion contained within its pages. The feelings that people experienced and shaped their view of the world in the 1950s are still those same feelings that we feel today and impact on our lives today.

Human emotion is timeless.

And this book is laden with human emotion and complex characters.

I couldn’t recommend this book more highly to you if you are looking for a quiet yet truly captivating read. This book is almost unassuming in its execution. It is stealthy how it hooks you and then reels you into the storyline and suddenly you are feeling everything with these beautifully written characters; their highs and their lows. You begin to question the motives of every character. You question complacency versus desire and the sometimes catastrophic fallout from both.

What I love most about this book is how no one is truly guilty come the end but yet no one is blameless either. And isn’t that humanity in a nut shell? No one is perfect. Every one is fatally flawed and none so much as the characters herein.

I found myself getting so completely and utterly involved and fully invested in these characters that there were points when reading that I punched my book in an effort to fist-bump what was happening in the storyline! Fist-bumping a modern classic??? What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon! 

Highly recommended to those who love books about ordinary people.

“She had learnt something from those last lonely weeks. She had learnt to wait for the changes and the help that life brings. Life is like the sea, sometimes you are in the trough of the wave, sometimes on the crest. When you are in the trough, you wait for the crest, and always, trough or crest, a mysterious tide bears you forward to an unseen, but certain shore.”

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