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Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple

Someone at a Distance (original 1953; edition 2008)

by Dorothy Whipple, Nina Bawden (Preface)

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3952027,097 (4.21)89
Title:Someone at a Distance
Authors:Dorothy Whipple
Other authors:Nina Bawden (Preface)
Info:Persephone Books (2008), Edition: Revised, Paperback, 420 pages
Collections:Persephone, Your library (inactive)
Tags:Persephone Classics; (3)

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Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple (1953)



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[Someone at a Distance] was a Peresphone classic. It was a story of love, trust, betrayal, and forgiveness. My first Peresphone and a good read, not your usual trashy romances; it was something more substantial. ( )
  tess_schoolmarm | Jun 1, 2015 |
Part of the Persephone Classics series that covers forgotten authors, Dorothy Whipple (unbeknown to be) wrote 8 successful novels from the 1930s up to 1953, when she wrote this, her final novel.

[Someone at a Distance] tells the story of the North family, who are leading an idyllic, happy life in the commuter belt until a cold and calculating young French woman comes to live for a short time with Mr. North's mother. Setting her sights on Mr. North, she succeeds in tearing apart not only Ellen and Avery North's happy marriage, but the loving trust and security of the whole family unit.

This quietly disarming book excels at getting into the psychology of it's characters, delving painfully into the complexity of how the affair affects each of the family members, including the perpetrator Mr. North. The affair itself is so subtly and delicately developed, Whipple capturing so perceptively how it only takes the igniting of the tiniest spark to painfully change the course of a happy marriage forever.

This is not a book with any pretensions of literary brilliance, yet it is brilliant - pared back, hard hitting and thought provoking. Is it so simple to put 20 years of marriage in the past? How do children impact the decisions that you make about that marriage?

The characterisation is just fantastic - you are totally drawn into the whole painful mess, feeling the myriad of emotions that the characters swing between. Lust, greed, pride, sloth, shame - how each of these can blind us and send us down the wrong path.

A quietly brilliant observation of human frailty - 4.5 stars. ( )
2 vote AlisonY | Mar 1, 2015 |
Ellen North, daughter, Anne and son, Hugh, put their lives back together after her picture perfect marriage to very nice guy, Avery, is destroyed by beautiful, scheming, French "tart", Louise. Well and insightfully told story. ( )
  Jonlyn | Apr 11, 2014 |
A highly readable study of the insertion of a sociopathic woman into a traditional marriage and the havoc that is wreaked as a result. Old Mrs. North, the widow of a highly successful industrialist, brings 27-year-old "French girl" Louise Lanier, into her home for companionship and light domestic duties. Louise, seething with resentment at being thrown over by her former lover, rich-boy Paul Devoisy--who has recently made a very bourgeois marriage to a plain and pious town girl with a good dowry--recognizes the new opportunities available to her. After Louise is left a significant amount of money by Mrs. North, she returns to England to collect it, finagling an extended stay at the home of the deceased woman's handsome and happily married middle-aged son, Avery, a partner in a successful London publishing firm. Motivated by her rage at Paul, Louise seduces Avery, whose family life is destroyed. The novel is an account of the ruination of a marriage by infidelity, but also an investigation into a female sociopathic mind. There is considerable melodrama, yes, and some moralizing, but the writing is generally smart and the characterization--with the exception of the limp and rather weak-willed Avery--convincing. A page-turner. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Apr 7, 2013 |
Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple; (5*)

I fell in love with my first (knowingly) read of a Persephone. I am hoping that all of the Persephone I go on to read will have this quality of writing.
Ellen and Avery live a busy but quiet life in the English countryside with their two children and with Avery's mother living not far away. Grandmama feels sorry for herself that she is not anyone's number one since the passing of Grandpapa and her children's reaching of adulthood with lives of their own. Ellen tries to visit a couple of times a week but this is not enough for Grandmama, who answers an advertisement in the paper for placement of a French young lady looking for work as companion/light housekeeping sort. Her letter to the young French lady is simply one of several but it is the position the French girl chooses to accept.
As the story moves on we learn that said young French lady has come from a background of shopkeepers but has had a secretly & extensive love affair with a young gentleman from a very good family in the village. When it comes time for him to marry however, he must choose a young lady of 'higher breeding', which angers our slutty French girl. So she leaves her village for this English position thinking that she will go out into the world, make something better of herself and come back and show him!
When our slutty French girl arrives in England she does everything for the Grandmama to make her happy and needful of her attentions. However she appears rude and distanced from everyone else. The daily help cannot abide her and even Grandmama's family raise their eyebrows though they are very happy that Grandmama is happy. She is so happy in fact that when she passes unexpectedly she leaves our slutty French girl 1,000 pounds along with her furs and jewels. Slutty French girl decides she must remain the 3 months or so that it will take for the paperwork, probate, etc to all come to a conclusion so she can take possession of her monies and goods. She helps the family to clean out Grandmama's house (where the help will not allow her to remain so Ellen mistakenly takes her in) and sends box after box of things to her parents in France, even down to the draperies.
While living with Avery and Ellen our slutty French girl gets bored and goes on the hunt after their son, Hugh, who is home on holiday from the Army. He doesn't like it and attempts to avoid her at all costs to the point of rudeness. At one point he goes out to the stable to make some shelving for his younger sister Ann who is off at school. He wants to surprise her with someplace to put her horse's brushes and gear, but he is mainly attempting to get away from slutty French girl. Avery comes upon slutty French girl making a play for his son and becomes very angry with her and tells her to keep away from Hugh so she provokes him by telling him: Why? You don't pay any attention to me.
So guess what? EeeYup, our slutty French girl goes all out after Avery who after a while weakens a bit and finally one day Ellen, his wife and Ann, his daughter come upon the two of them locked in an embrace on the settee. Ellen and Ann are both shocked and when Ann leaves, Ellen tells her husband that our slutty French girl must go and go now.
And the story goes on from there only to get better and better. The only fault I can find with this book is that the very last bit is just a smidge too tidy.
This book is beautifully written and the characters are wonderfully drawn. One even comes to not like, but to understand our slutty French girl.
I love, love, loved the writing in this book and can't wait to read another by Dorothy Whipple. I gave it a 5 star rating very highly recommend it. ( )
2 vote rainpebble | Dec 12, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy Whippleprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bawden, NinaPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Widowed, in the house her husband had built with day and night nurseries and a music-room, as if the children would stay forever instead of marrying and going off at the earliest possible moment, old Mrs North yielded one day to a long-felt desire to provide herself with company.
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A deceptively simple plot about a deceived wife and a foolish husband. Avery and Ellen have been married for twenty years. When his mother advertises for a companion, the French girl who arrives sets her sights on Avery and callously threatens the happy marriage.… (more)

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