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The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell

The Distance Between Us (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Maggie O'Farrell

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3771141,555 (3.57)14
Title:The Distance Between Us
Authors:Maggie O'Farrell
Info:Headline Review (2005), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell (2004)


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English (10)  French (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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 |
The Distance Between Us weaves two stories together: that of Stella, a Scottish-Italian woman who grew up in Edinburgh, sister to whom she is very close, and a tendency to disappear; and Jake, who lives in Hong Kong and whose father - who doesn't know that Jake exists - was Scottish. Stella's and Jake's stories converge when they meet at a remote inn in Scotland called Kildoune (also Jake's surname); Stella has come there to disappear, and Jake has come in search of his father.

O'Farrell switches back and forth between Stella and Jake, past and present, with a single line space between paragraphs. Nevertheless, the story is smooth rather than disjointed, the pieces falling into place without confusion or too much suspense. Jake suffers a traumatic event in the present, near the beginning of the book, whereas a pivotal event in Stella and her sister Nina's childhood is revealed near the end.

The Distance Between Us packs less of an emotional punch than O'Farrell's other books (The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, The Hand That First Held Mine), but it is a compelling read. O'Farrell probes the issues of "hyphenated" identity (e.g. Scottish-Italian), culture, and belonging, illuminating the ways in which being different sets you apart.


If she narrows her eyes to a certain point, the sun makes prisms of her eyelashes, lining the edges of her vision with jewels. (53)

Motherhood is a clear, prescribed thing. Those nine months you spend with another being pocketed inside you are a lifelong, unwritten contract that can't ever be cancelled. But fatherhood is nebulous, undefined, and can be almost nothing, a mere tailed cell shot out into the void. (186)

That's the thing about gardening, there's always something to do, you're only ever catching up with yourself. (211)

Thousands of miles away, her son is still in yesterday. (211)

The moments that affect you are only ever the ones you're not expecting. The ones you know will arrive, the ones you've been waiting for, have an almost unreal, rehearsed air about them, because you've imagined them so many times. (212)

This collision of her worlds made her feel insubstantial, weakened, unsure of who she was supposed to be, how she was meant to behave. (255)

Why is it women have an innate ability to cut to the chase? To sniff out the germ of a situation? How do they do it? (291)

"You may not think you're married but if the person you're married to thinks you are, then you are." (291)

She gets the light-headed feeling she always gets when faced with a world map, that dizzying scope of the possible. She could go anywhere, be anyone, rewrite her life just by getting on a plane. All she has to do is hand over some money. Travel strikes her sometimes as an almost suspiciously easy bargain: a new life in exchange for cash. Surely there should be something more Faustian, more binding about it? How can it be that easy? (365)
  JennyArch | Dec 30, 2013 |
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Stella has fled London to confront the childhood secret which has marked her life. 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. This is a story of parallel lives, misplaced identities and the bond between sisters.… (more)

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