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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of two isolated individuals and a country in transition
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'...
Published on 9 Oct 2009 by Trevor Coote

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A clever, original book
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...
Published on 13 Jun 2005 by C. Nobes


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A clever, original book, 13 Jun 2005
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C. Nobes (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Distant Shore (Paperback)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars The story of two isolated individuals and a country in transition, 9 Oct 2009
By 
Trevor Coote "Trevor Coote" (Tahiti, French Polynesia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Distant Shore (Paperback)
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. However, though I recognise within the pages the drab uniformity and casual rudeness of modern England I am less convinced by the remorseless hostility and arbitrary brutality depicted. That said, Caryl Phillips's compassionate work is highly recommended, but be warned that it is relentlessly sombre and pessimistic.
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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
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This review is from: A Distant Shore (Hardcover)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a really good novel, 3 Sep 2011
This review is from: A Distant Shore (Paperback)
A really excellent novel - exactingly well written, and perceptively told.
You have this story of the retired teacher and the immigrant village caretake/community driver - told, sometimes in first person and sometimes in third person, from the point of view of each character in turn.
You start with hers - the retired teacher's - but, as becomes gradually clearer, her mental grasp of the situation is beginning to show traces of stress or senility, so we're not quite sure at times what to make of her account of things. But one thing at least is clear: the caretaker ends up dead in the canal at the end of the first part of the book.
Then we shift to a horrendous account - starting in a prison cell and with an extended flashback to Africa, tribal warfare and illegal immigration through Europe to England - of 'Gabriel', who, it finally becomes clear, is the village caretaker 'Solomon' we met in the first part (who has changed his name and his life).
We then get filled in on the background to both the immigrant's and the teacher's previous experiences in England before both ended up in this village - and realize that the seemingly quiet, respectable, reserved characters they were in the first part of the novel hid a distressing, and tragic, past.
The concluding part of the book is again from the teacher's perspective and - rather in the style of one of Alan Bennett's senile 'talking heads' - we glimpse the inner logic, coherence and dignity of a person, while at the same time realizing how the rest of the world would categorize that person as merely 'odd' or 'different'.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "These are not happy times for anyone", 14 July 2013
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This review is from: A Distant Shore (Kindle Edition)
A richly-textured book, in which the reader has constantly to revise initial conclusions or assumptions. It repays very attentive reading: the significance of small details may not become apparent until much later. Until reaching the third section, it is unclear as to how the two strands (the early retirement of a disturbed female music teacher, and the journey to the UK of Gabriel, a refugee from Africa) are connected, but, as the book develops, matters are gradually resolved in a surprising and shocking way, with a very skillful manipulation of time. Gabriel "knows that is he is going to live again then he will have to learn to banish all thoughts of his past existence. There can be no sentiment". Both the teacher and the refugee become involved in dangerous relationships, where hostility gives simple misunderstandings a sinister edge. When an older man tries to befriend Gabriel and be his "daddy"; a "disgusted Gabriel can barely contain his anger" and thinks that "in his own country he would have killed this man, and nobody would have held him responsible for his actions." However depressing life is for many in contemporary Britain, it's obviously much worse in Africa! The only really likeable characters are the truck driver and his foster family, who take the refugee into their home and help him get a job, but, of course, horror strikes good people as well as bad ones.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 'who belongs and who's a stranger', 11 Mar 2012
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sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Distant Shore (Paperback)
Brilliant novel that seems to start out quite tamely, but through switching to and fro in time, Phillips gradually lets us into more and more of the characters' lives. Dorothy, the retired schoolmistress, is our first narrator, and she seems a prim and proper type (although surprisingly likes going to the pub for a Guinness). Her neighbour, handyman Solomon, is polite and friendly, an African in an otherwise all-white (hostile) village. Two isolated individuals, they form a tentative friendship...
Part one, narrated by Dorothy, tells of their acquaintance to its conclusion. But then in parts 2 and 3, the lives of each, and how they got to that place in time (and got to be the people that they were) are explained.
Controlled prose (bit like the writing of Kazuo Ishiguro), will definitely read more of Phillips' work.
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A Distant Shore
A Distant Shore by Caryl Phillips (Paperback - 1 April 2004)
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