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A Distant Shore [Hardcover]

Caryl Phillips
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
RRP: 15.99
Price: 12.23 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

20 Mar 2003
The English village is a place where people come to lick their wounds. Dorothy has walked away from a bad thirty-year marriage, an affair gone sour and a dangerous obsession. Unable to cope with the change from the civility of life as a teacher in a grammar school to the democratic brutishness of a comprehensive, she has taken early retirement. Between her visits to the doctor and the music lessons she gives to bored teenagers, she is trying to rebuild a life. Her neighbour seems concerned to conceal his past behind a facade of impeccable manners. It's not immediately clear why Solomon is living in the village, but his African origin suggests a complex history that is at odds with his dull routine of washing the car and making short trips to the local supermarket. Though all he has in common with the English is a shared language, it soon becomes clear that Solomon hopes that his new country will provide him with a safe haven in which he might enjoy the decent behaviour and graciousness that he believes the English habitually practice. Gradually they establish a form of comfort in each other's presence that alleviates the isolation they both feel. A Distant Shore is a masterful novel and a brilliant exploration of an England that is changing beyond measure as the world outside its borders intrudes. (2002-10-18)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Secker (20 Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0436205645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0436205644
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 513,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A Distant Shore is a distillation of everything that makes Phillips's work so impressive: lucid, deceptively simple prose combined with huge ideas and complex emotions... One of those rare novels which successfully examines vast themes through the prism of small lives" Time Out "Suspenseful, atmospheric, adventurous" Independent "Phillips's clever novel about a society under increasing pressure to change won't fail to impress" Sunday Express "This is literary fiction at its very best - a gripping, character-driven novel that portrays the malaise of a whole society through the stories of two individuals" Sunday Tribune "One of the literary giants of our time" New York Times

Book Description

A superb new novel from one of 'the best and most productive writers of his generation' (New York Times). (2002-10-18)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A clever, original book 13 Jun 2005
I found this book hard to put down. Its method of telling the story in a jumbled order means that although the outcome is already known, interest lies in how it comes about, and this i found clever and only led to minimal confusion. It intertwines the history of two people, recounting how they ended up living next to each other, starting from the end. However, it is not a very happy book. Its full of pain and suffering, and although captivating it makes for uncomfortable reading at times.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The author has put his heart and soul into this work and his sincerity shines through every page. It is a story of two desolate individuals - a ship-wrecked, middle-aged Englishwoman and a polite and private young African man - who have arrived in the same bland English village at the same time but via different routes in life. They are both there to `lick their wounds'. It is also the story of a country, the `broken Britain' of political rhetoric, a country in transition, trying to adjust to social upheaval, an experience to which it is barely accustomed.
Dorothy has wasted much of her adult life on a loveless marriage and then followed up this failure with two ill-advised affairs, one of which has ended her career. Now, in desolation, she has isolated herself in a smart cul-de-sac in a new development in the town of her birth. Her neighbour, Solomon, is the local handyman who passes the days doing odd jobs and washing his car. Solomon is African, unusual in this particular neighbourhood, and an attribute which makes him both conspicuous and unwelcome. To Dorothy he is a polite and friendly man and a friendship based on mutual respect develops between them. But Solomon is reticent to discuss his past. Not the author, though, as Solomon's story unfolds in all its harrowing detail. This novel reminds us (indigenous Europeans) graphically that many migrants come to Europe from corrupt and lawless lands with the hope of rebuilding shattered lives. As distant relatives (by virtue of being human), the least they can expect is a smile and a greeting.
A Distant Shore is lucidly written, nicely paced and is very sympathetic towards the plight of its suffering protagonists.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a beautiful read 5 Nov 2004
On reading 'a distant shore' by Caryl Philips any inhabitant of England will instantly recognise the country he describes. The reader might also be ashamed, angry or sad. His characters, be they from middle England or from war-torn Africa, are created with great perception and gentleness. The result is a touching and surprisingly gripping work, one where the story is revealed at a perfect pace through the voices of his disparate narrators. His use of time-slicing, so over-used nowadays, is very effective. I would recommend this book to anybody who would like to shine a spotlight on multi-cultural Britain in the 21st century or, more indulgently, anyone who re-reads passages to enjoy rhythmic, sparing prose. I believe this is an important book of it's time.
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