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72 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marriage turned upside down
Dorothy Whipple is yet another unjustly forgotten woman writer of the 40s and 50s. Someone at a distance is the story of an ordinary marriage. Ellen is a little complacent, a little smug about the happiness of her life and the security of her relationship with her husband, Avery. Avery is just drifting along in his comfortable job and familiar home life. The catalyst for...
Published on 21 April 2001 by Lynette Baines

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A book of it"s time
Rather a predictable event though well written and interesting take on events. The difference in attitude to divorce and separation then and now is starkly illustrated.
Published 1 month ago by CFJH Morris


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72 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marriage turned upside down, 21 April 2001
By 
Lynette Baines (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Someone at a Distance (Paperback)
Dorothy Whipple is yet another unjustly forgotten woman writer of the 40s and 50s. Someone at a distance is the story of an ordinary marriage. Ellen is a little complacent, a little smug about the happiness of her life and the security of her relationship with her husband, Avery. Avery is just drifting along in his comfortable job and familiar home life. The catalyst for change and tragedy in the novel is a discontented Frenchwoman Louise, who arrives as a companion to Avery's mother and insinuates herself into the family. In one memorable scene, Avery feels he is being engulfed by Louise's strong perfume, a wonderful metaphor for her effect on his life. He is too weak to fight off the effects of the perfume, and ultimately, he is too weak to fight off the consequences of his dalliance with Louise. Ellen emerges as a much stronger, more sympathetic character as she deals with the aftermath of Avery's desertion- dealing with gossips, sympathetic yet shocked relatives, and discovering a new place for herself in the changed world she inhabits. This is a beautifully written book with a strong moral sense and the ending is full of hope. Persephone have also republished Dorothy Whipple's They knew Mr Knight. If you enjoy well-written, absorbing novels with believable characters, I can't recommend Whipple's work too highly.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read More Dorothy Whipple, 8 Feb 2006
By 
Charliecat (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Someone at a Distance (Paperback)
This has to be one of the most quietly brilliant novels I've read in a long time.
It tells the story of the most perfect happy family destroyed by one foolish mistake and the arts of a young French woman. It's simply heart-breaking and can make the reader, by turns, fume with anger and cry with sadness!
Dorothy Whipple's writing is without embellishments but is able to grip the reader until the very end. Louise releases a Pandora's Box full of evil and pain upon the happy North family...but at the bottom of the box was of course...hope. This is what Whipple leaves us with and it's perfect.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wife vs Young Temptress, 26 Oct 2005
This review is from: Someone at a Distance (Paperback)
Continuing with my run of Persephone titles (following the delightful Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day), Someone at a Distance lives up to the high standard I have come to expect from Persephone. Dorothy Whipple puts a unique spin on the all too familiar tale of a husband going off with a younger woman - leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves. Vividly imagined, the characters' inner dialogues and outward behaviour as they react to the events unfolding around them are both realistic and insightful. The wife's response, as she struggles to cope and find new accomodation and work, is especially moving.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuine surprise: go and read more Dorothy Whipple!, 1 Jan 2010
By 
This review is from: Someone at a Distance (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
This is a book my bookgroup decided to read, following a fellow member's recommendation. I am so pleased I had the opportunity and pleasure to read this book and discover the writings of an excellent albeit underrated female novelist.
From the beginning, Whipple's writing is engaging, constructive and begs you not to put the book down.
The story is gripping without sensational twists but a real time version of a family disintegrating due to a foolish, vain and weak husband. I agree with other reviewers that say that the 'heroine' comes out very well at the end of the novel since she has 'grown'.
My only mistake is that I read the foreward which revealed a synopsis of the novel before I had read it. It rather spoilt some of the surprises, so don't read it until you've finished the novel!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read, 16 Aug 2009
This review is from: Someone at a Distance (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
Although I wanted to slap nearly everybody, I read on breathlessly til the end. So much misguided thought, love and loyalty. So much psychology of disappointment and expectation. The period might be then, but the love story is now. It could all happen in 2010 with that slinky au pair... Read it. Really good.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Someone at a distance, 29 Aug 2008
By 
I. Lewis - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Someone at a Distance (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
I came to this book with no expectations or previous knowledge of Dorothy Whipple and I was completely absorbed and moved by the telling of this subtle and very satisfying story. Amongst the seemingly gentle storyline are searing and sharply accurate observations about men and women that bring a timeless quality to the writing. Womderful. The bext book I have read in a very long time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just brilliant!, 20 July 2012
This review is from: Someone at a Distance (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
I don't know how she does it! All of her books are so well written and yet so readable. Whenever I retell the story of any of her novels to anyone, they don't sound that gripping, but it is quite literally the way she tells them that makes them such page-turners!
She draws a vivid and convincing picture of her characters making them real from the first to the last page and beyond. I'm still cross with Avery to be honest. I don't think I can forgive him just yet.
A nice cup of tea, a slice of Victoria Sponge and a Whipple in hand - life doesn't get much better.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another gem from Persephone, 25 April 2010
By 
Suzie (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Someone at a Distance (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
I loved this book and was really sorry to finish it. The writing style is quite ordinary, but Dorothy Whipple's depiction of happy family life destroyed by momentary temptation is so perceptive that it is totally absorbing. The characters are well depicted so that I felt I really knew them, particularly Ellen, the complacently contented and ultimately wronged wife, and Louise, a predatory French girl who follows her own selfish ends without consideration for the feelings of others. The husband, Avery, may be attractive, but he's also weak and easily led to the point that you want to shake him until he comes to his senses. I couldn't imagine how the book would end, but you have to keep reading to find out.

This is an absolute gem from Persephone Classics. If you enjoy stories about relationships and how they develop and founder, and about the power of love, then do read this. You'll love it!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Power of a Compelling Story, 17 Oct 2007
This review is from: Someone at a Distance (Paperback)
'Someone at a Distance' is a novel I found utterly compelling from the very first line. Dorothy Whipple draws the reader in with such assurance yet the style of her prose is both understated and unpretentious. At the same time, one comes upon certain unexpectedly evocative passages which belie the straightforwardness of the novel as a whole. I was particularly struck by the following:

'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.' (p.181)

How elegant and perceptive! I perceived some resemblances with another favourite novelist of that period, Elizabeth Bowen. Though these writers depart in style, they share a thematic preoccupation with the effect of environment on state of mind, the concept of home and the fragility of this idea. Similar existential concerns run through this novel, subdued at first though felt more palpably with the dispossession of Ellen and her children. The description of a home following the death or departure of the main resident as 'dead' chimes with Bowen's rendering of domestic space in her work.
The age-old art of story-telling is often underestimated these days when narrative high-jinks are the vogue. Whipple reminds one of the pleasure of complete immersion in a story and within an unfamiliar world which is simultaneously familiar in many ways. The Norths are, above all, an ordinary family and Ellen is an ordinary mother. Having finished the novel (within the space of a day and a half, I might add), I felt at such a loss that I immediately procured a copy of 'They Knew Mr. Knight'. This impulsiveness is testament to Whipple's skill as a storyteller and her power to move. This novel was, in all sincerity, a pleasure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worm in the bud, 5 July 2011
By 
Alun Williams "mathematician manqué" (Peterborough,England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Someone at a Distance (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
I have never come across Persephone Classics before, nor the writer of this book, and both are welcome discoveries. This imprint appears to be ploughing a similar furrow to many of the original Virago Modern Classics: rescuing from obscurity interesting and well-written novels, by or about women, that have been unjustly forgotten. This novel fits into that category well, describing as it does an at first idyllically happy marriage and home in 1950s England. Unfortunately, neither Ellen North, the novel's heroine, nor her foolish husband Avery, are a match for the scheming Louise, a young French woman who comes to England as a companion to Avery's mother after a romantic disappointment. After Louise is left a substantial legacy following the mother's death she comes to stay with the Norths, and resolves to stay until she has her hands on the money. Both envious and scornful of Ellen she begins to flirt with Avery...
First published in 1953, it would probably be very difficult for this novel to find a publisher today. It was probably a little old-fashioned even in 1953, and its scrupulous avoidance of sex-scenes would be the despair of a modern editor. All the characters are well-drawn. Only Ellen's naivety prevents her being thoroughly admirable, and Louise is a superb villain, and there are several interesting secondary characters. A charming reminder of an era that was swept away for ever by the social changes of the 1960s. Thoroughly recommended.
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Someone at a Distance (Persephone Classics)
Someone at a Distance (Persephone Classics) by Dorothy Whipple (Paperback - 24 April 2008)
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