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The Distance Between Us (2004)

by Maggie O'Farrell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4161244,210 (3.57)14
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.… (more)
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» See also 14 mentions

English (11)  French (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Enjoyed this story but not the structure. Two stories told as non-linear narratives - flitting here and there, back and forward in time. Normally I would abandon these books but Maggie O’Farrell writes so well that you can so easily picture the scenes in your mind. Basically a romance story - will these two make it? I’m not spoiling it. ( )
  Mercef | Jul 3, 2020 |
Exceptional writer, am in awe of O'Farrell's sentence construction. This perhaps more than the story - sweet Jake, brought up in Hong Kong, does the kind thing to his cost. In parallel, a young woman confronts her past. The story jumps from character to character, and from the parents / grandparents past to present , so kept me guessing as to how they would meet, and to discover the story behind the female siblings' social awkwardness. ( )
  LARA335 | Feb 24, 2017 |
My previous venture into Maggie O'Farrell's writing left me less than satisfied with the story, but more than satisfied with the writing (barring some confusion at the end.) This story, however, was much easier to follow. Two stories entwined, about two rather lost souls (three if you count Nina). I think O'Farrell has a good grasp on how to write about wounded souls. ( )
  bookczuk | Dec 25, 2014 |
Unsympathetic characters and irritating timeline jumping. ( )
  ylferif | Jan 21, 2014 |
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. Three years later, I decided to try another of the author's books and was pleasantly surprised with The Distance Between Us. There were some vague similarities with my first read, but I was quickly drawn into the story and enjoyed it. This review is actually from a re-read, as I later acquired an abridged audio copy of the book and decided to enjoy it again.

I was particularly drawn to the character of Jake, who lived all his life in Hong Kong, with a British mother. I found myself identifying with him, as I have raised four children as expats in Dubai. Although he is comfortable with the Chinese, he can never quite fit in to the Chinese community. As a result of a tragic accident, he finds himself married to a girl he has no feelings for, back in a country he cannot identify with. So he runs away to Scotland on a search for his unknown father.

There are similarities in the situation in which Stella finds herself. She lives in Britain but is of Italian extraction. She is very close to her sister Nina but is alienated by the other children. She is also running away, though it's not until near the end of the book that we actually find out what she is running from.

Inevitably, Jake and Stella meet up, sparks fly and explanations are finally given. While somewhat formulaic in this respect, the wonderful descriptions and the time spent in Hong Kong, made this an excellent read.

Also read by Maggie O'Farrell:
After You'd Gone (5 stars)
My Lover's Lover (3 stars)
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (5 stars)
Hand That First Held Mine (5 stars) ( )
  DubaiReader | Jan 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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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.

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