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The Distance Between Us [Hardcover]

Maggie O'Farrell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 2004
Set largely between Hong Kong and the Scottish Highlands, Maggie O'Farrell's third novel is a story about family and emigration - and the way you can never escape your family, or their history, no matter how far you travel. Stella - spirited, witty and passionate - has fled London to confront the childhood secret which has marked her life, and twinned her destiny with her sister's. A set of tragic circumstances and a hasty marriage bring Jake from Hong Kong to Britain, where he embarks upon a quest for the father he never knew. When Jake and Stella meet, both their lives are changed forever, but not before Stella's past is brought painfully out into the open. THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US is a loving, immensely moving and often very funny look at the way families work, which will live with the reader forever, and bring Maggie O'Farrell to her widest readership yet.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; First Edition edition (1 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755302656
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755302659
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 863,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Maggie O'Farrell is the author of five novels, After You'd Gone, My Lover's Lover, The Distance Between Us, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and The Hand That First Held Mine. Born in Northern Ireland, Maggie grew up in Wales and Scotland. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

Product Description


Every bit as good, if not better, than her highly acclaimed previous novels. An intriguing plot, sympathetic characterisation and beautifully observed, sophisticated writing all make for a hugely satisfying read (Booksellers' Choice)

This is the third of her seductive novels and quite the best to date ... haunting, passionate ... full of sensual language [and] vivid snapshot imagery ... this superb story ... has an extraordinary female intensity and authentic emotional punch (Barbara Trapido, The Independent)

O'Farrell pulls a passionate and absorbing love story out of the bag (THE MIRROR)

Maggie O'Farrell has written three novels, each of them a critical and commercial success ... her confidence in her characters' plausibility is endearing ... She tends to their emotional lives with the inexhaustible tenderness of a doting mother (FINANCIAL TIMES)

hyper-sensitive examination of family relationships ... ambitious and trickily arranged narrative ... The result is a skilful, sensitive romantic novel (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Her gift for story-telling is wrapped in gold paper and tied with 15 velvet bows. Give her any synopsis you like and she would probably make it work ... Maggie O'Farrell has a magical talent for writing sensuous love scenes which are somehow touchingly old-fashioned (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

Fans of the earlier books can expect the same telling observations, evocative descriptions and a narrative that moves seamlessly between past and present (SCOTSMAN ON SUNDAY)

Book Description

A story about families, and how they make us what we are.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read and a beautiful love story 11 Mar 2004
By Mona
I'd never read any of Maggie O'farrell's books before, although my friends had been telling me to for ages. But I loved this so much I went straight out to buy her others. This is a really copmlex, involving read that you won't be able to put down. It centres on two relationships: the emerging love story between Stella, a scottish-italian girl, and Jake, a British Hong Kong man, and the weirdly close relationship between Stella and her crazy and infuriating sister Nina. There are lots of other smaller parts in the book (which sounds like I'm talking about a film and reading this books is a bit like watching a film - it's so vivid and she cuts between scenes like a movie director) and every one of these people are as real, believable and visible as the main characters. She writes in what seems like a complicated way at first - lots of different people, and moving back and forward in time - but after a while you get completely used to it. It's a great read, a beautiful love story and anyone who has sisters will recognise lots of the emotions/frustrations from here!
Highly, highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why, oh why, go soft on us now? 20 July 2005
I'm a fan of Maggie O'Farrell's and was really looking forward to reading this. O'Farrell has always been about love, but love with a twist of melancholy. In this book, classic romance creeps in a big way and ... for me, part the thrill has gone [soft] for it.
The characters in "The distance between us" are not as involving and her writing is a lot less dark, losing some of its bite in the process.
In summary, this book is still a pretty good read, but it doesn't pack the same punch as some of her previous work (e.g. this is nowhere near as hard hitting as "After You'd Gone).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overall disappointing- 2.5 stars 18 Mar 2009
By Belford
Like most other reviewers, I loved Maggie O'Farrell's first novel, After You'd Gone. However, reading this one felt - sad to say - like wading through treacle. For me, the characters and the plot just didn't ring true.

Stella's 'stuckness' in relation to the events of her early life felt unconvincing, as did the details of Nina's illness and their mother's poor awareness of the difficulties the sisters experienced at school. Also, the strength of Jake's undying love after barely getting to know Stella (remember, Stella is someone who plays her cards close to her chest, and Jake is someone who has experienced recent difficulties with intimate relationships) was psychologically unconvincing. And as for the ending....

O'Farrell has clearly put a lot of effort into building her characters, but she hasn't, for me, achieved a great deal of psychological realism in this novel. Stella, Nina and Jake simply never felt real.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to previous form 4 Mar 2004
By A Customer
I loved Maggie O Farrell's first book and eagarly awaited her second, which in my opinion sorely disappoints! - did not enjoy it all it, in fact didn't even finish it....
However was willing to give her a second chance and bought her new hardback , which i can say is equally as good if not better than her first book. I am reading it soooo slowly because I don't want it to end !- characters are utterly believable - the relationship between Stella and her sister Nina is fascinating and the storyline keeps you hooked long into the night - Jake's character is also compelling and his quest to find some link with his father - all in all, an excellent read - trust me, you won't be disappointed if you enjoyed her first book, - this is on a similar level.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back on track 29 July 2005
By A Customer
After a spellbinding first novel, and a so-so second, Maggie O'Farrell is back on course with this intriguing novel. You are drawn at first into the characters of Jake and Stella and their gradual loosening of life's ties, and then the theme of sisterhood gradually takes prominence - the descriptions of Stella's relationship with her sister is where the writer's skills really lie. I found Stella's character slightly annoying - and there was a slightly Mills & Boon-ish quality to the story - but what remains for me is a story beautifully told. Maggie O'Farrell has a gift for describing memories of childhood, those wierd details one remembers about relatives etc - and the blurring of senses, remembering smells, sights, music etc. A beautifully written, lyrical novel.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lost its way at the end but overall, a good read 20 Sep 2005
By A Customer
When I started reading this novel, I was mesmerised by the main characters, who are utterly convincing and realistic, and very impressed by the amount of careful research that the author has obviously put into her work (the novel introduces scenes and characters from Italy, Wales, London, Scotland and Hong Kong, as well as Italian, Chinese and Welsh phrases). However, I lost interest towards the end - the "dizzying twist" which the Daily Mail speaks of never happened for me; on the contrary, the ending was highly predictable. I found myself speed-reading the last twenty pages because I knew what was going to take place. I also don't understand why the character of Mair was so finely-drawn, only to disappear without trace - I was hoping that she might re-emerge towards the end, elderly and contrite, to tie up the Caroline/family issue.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Zoe R
This was the first O'Farrel book I read - I've since got hold of the others. It's described on the back as a love story but relaly it's much much more. I would say it's main theme was the relationship between sisters. And what a relationship the two sister main characters have: Complex, overly close, secretive. Stella and Nina are beautifully drawn and completely believable. The love story itself, which doesn't really start until halfway through, is great as well. But, for me, this book is a study in sisters, the past's influence on the present, emigration, the feeling of not-belonging and the urge to run away. I love this book. It draws you further and further in with every line. It moves about, both geographically and in time, so keeps you absorbed with every word.
Great. When is her next book out?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read
Beautiful descriptions of London, Hong Kong and Scotland; all places I have spent considerable time in. Read more
Published 3 months ago by MISS L A FRANKLIN
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read
An unusual story. One or two parts were dragged out a bit longer than necessary I thought, but
overall a good tale. Well written
Published 5 months ago by edithswanneck
5.0 out of 5 stars gripping
took a while to see how the characters could possibly relate to each other. Well told and gripping tale showing great understanding of human psychology.
A very good read
Published 6 months ago by alex
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!!
I loved this book and couldn't put it down. Although I felt sure of the ending, the final twist was unexpected.
Published 6 months ago by Derek Hibbert
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Maggie O'Farrell's writing
As always, the text was engaging and I couldn't put this book down.
Maggie has become the go-to author for all my Christmas gifts.
Published 7 months ago by Z. Walker
4.0 out of 5 stars Abridged audiobook
I absolutely loved After You'd Gone, my first Maggie O'Farrell book, but when I followed that soon after, with My Lover's Lover, I was disappointed. Read more
Published 8 months ago by DubaiReader
5.0 out of 5 stars Six star review
Loved it, clever writer, she takes you backwards and forwards and to the present with great ease and imagination. brilliant story teller.
Published 8 months ago by Felicity MacDonald
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Maggie O'Farrell
This is yet again another compelling read. I love her character development and her use of prose is just lovely at times. I would definitely recommend this book.
Published 9 months ago by kathrynls
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read
Maggie O'Farrell has done it again! Her descriptions of Musselburgh and Scotland made a great background for a great read.
Published 10 months ago by theodora petridou
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable!
A little different from her other novels but still enjoyable. I don't like to discuss plot or characters since I believe it spoils the read, but fair to say that the eventual links... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Pastispast
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