Someone at a Distance

Thoughts Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple, Persephone 1999 (orig 1953 ), 413 pages

GIFT from Nat of  In Spring It is the Dawn for the Holiday Persephone Swap.

MOTIVATION for READING:   My very first Persephone*.  (everyone sigh)    Thank you for this beautiful book!    I am excited to have joined the Grey Cover Club.

I LOVE that the book jacket only gives barely a glimpse into what this is about so I won’t either!    However, if you are intrigued by good versus evil in a normal everyday setting and not in a vampire kind of way AND if you believe in the conundrum of marriage and the illusions of such AND love skilled authors to give you a great story, pick this one up.

Ms. Whipple writes smart.   She is witty and captures dialogue that propels and convinces and keenly gets at the heart of a character.     I was cheering the heroine and loudly booing the villain.    I really enjoyed the pace and flow of this story and found it unputdownable.

p. 188 “She was casting about, almost instinctively, like a caterpillar at the end of a stalk, for something to get hold of and climb on to.”

LOTS of fodder to discuss from the flaws of a character contrasted with virtue, feminism and choices available to women, how good people spawn bad children, to choices and more choices and how to get out of a bad choice!

If you think you might be critical of these bad choices and decision, perhaps this novel will frustrate you.    When I was reading this, I was captivated.   When I sit back now and analyze the paths the characters take, I question the times and motivations and I sigh.    It is both modern and old-fashioned, I think.    I’m still not sure I like Ellen now but I cheered for her and felt deep into my cold heart for what happens to her.

This would be a fun book club book.

OH, and the PREFACE by Nina Bawden is awesome.   I recommend you read it LAST, of course.  (Unless you are Jenny of I-Read-the-End-of-Books-First fame.)

It is,… a fairly ordinary tale.   But it is a great gift to be able to take an ordinary tale and make it compulsive reading.   It is all in the telling and Dorothy Whipple is a storyteller – an art that cannot be taught, cannot be learned, an art only a few writers are lucky enough to be born with.  At the end of the novel you an look back and see how it was done, how the author held your attention and persuaded you how one thing was bound to lead to the next, but while you are reading you are only aware of the suspense, the need to turn the page.

RATING:   Four slices of pie.   LOTs of whipped cream.

viii – disputatious |ˌdispyoŏˈtā sh əs|adjective (of a person) fond of having heated arguments • (of an argument or situation) motivated by or causing strong opinions
167 soignée – “You can’t be soignée and dig in the earth as well.  It is impossible.”  soigné |swänˈyā|adjective (fem. -gnée pronunc. same) dressed very elegantly; well groomed.
168 hélas – more French…   unfortunately
180 mercenary – primarily concerned with making money at the expense of ethics

[If you know French, you won’t wonder like I did about what all the French sayings were.   I can’t help it; a silly pet peeve of mine  from High School Classics days is French in books.  Why not German or Swahili?   Why is it always French? I should just take an Intro course so I could at least know how to pronounce.]

p. 181 “If we could be seen thinking, we would show blown bright one moment, dark the next, like embers;  subject to every passing word and thought of our own or other people’s, mostly other people’s.


Eva at A Striped Armchair read this in January 2010 and this was also her first Persephone (I like to think she and I are kindred spirits), JoAnn at Lakeside Musings read and reviewed this in 2009, Ti of BookChatter says, “a lovely book to curl-up with on a rainy day”, and Dani of A Work in Progress presents a beautiful review.    Click here for Fyrefly’s Book Blog Search for this novel.

*  Persephone Books is a UK publisher that brings attention to classic and often forgotten novels by women.


Copyright © 2007-2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

11 thoughts on “Someone at a Distance

  1. Ooh, I was going to save this one for Persephone Reading Weekend but it’s not until the end of February! I don’t know if I can wait that long. . . I have to ration out the Whipples because I’m afraid when I’ve finished them all, I’ll be sad. I’m really happy that you liked it, though. I hope you’ll have time to read The Priory someday.

  2. I got one of the Living Social Amazon $10 for $20 deals the other day and this is one of the books I was debating buying with it. Of course, I am now paralyzed with indecision and have no idea what to buy. I want to purchase a Pesephone because I too want a gray cover. Hmm…

  3. Hahahaha, you are now the second blogger to use me as a specific example of someone for whom spoilers are not an issue. I would say I hope this will inspire in other people a desire to read books my way (THE BEST WAY), but I am not confident that will be the outcome. :p

  4. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. I knew it would be a pleasant, cozy read but I was so taken with it once I got half way through. I really could not put it down.

    Thanks for the shout-out!

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