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The Whole Wide Beauty

2.92 of 5 stars 2.92  ·  rating details  ·  72 ratings  ·  21 reviews
David Freeman, the charismatic and renowned director of the Broughton Poetry Foundation, has always been more interested in his work than family, and his daughter Katherine feels the wound of his neglect. David's intense passion for his work masks a complicated inner world, and his already fraught relationship with Katherine is further threatened when she falls in love wit ...more
Paperback, 293 pages
Published May 1st 2010 by Faber & Faber (first published April 1st 2010)
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Jenny  (hades2) (Chocolate Chunky Munkie)
Read the first 50 pages and then skimmed the rest. This was not for me
I really, really had wanted to love this book but it just wasn't anything near what I hoped it would be. The story starts with Katherine Freeman and introducing her life as it is and her parents and husband. What she does and loves and her relationship with her husband. It moves between that and her father, his life and relationships and then her mother. Every now and then its the husband and child.

There wasn't any big pull in the story, after a while we have some excitement when she longs for s
Stephen Moore
There are moments when Emily Woof’s writing is so sharply acute it left me breathless... and feeling just a little bit exposed. Indeed this is a subtle exposition of the human condition. The tangled mess we make of our closest relationships. Whether that’s our partners or siblings; or father and daughter... It’s about losing our way, and finding our way again, and so much else. Give this your full attention, it deserves it, and will reward you. And without giving too much away, there’s a symboli ...more
Really enjoyed this one and found the character driven story totally absorbing and satisfyingly emotional. Very accomplished for a first novel, and I look forward to her next...
I absolutely loved this. The writing is deceptively simple but I found myself scribbling down quotes, especially from the second half. There's such a clarity to the writing, the settings and the characters. She writes incisively about the connection between creativity and falling in love, and about the importance of art and how it works. The book was particularly good on the compromises involved in long-term relationships: the sacrifices and denials involved pain and loss but they also made the ...more
There is a quiet beauty to the novel, one that gives you joy from the simple act of reading a compelling story of life. The images are painstakingly constructed and vivid, offering a telling nature of the emotions surrounding the characters, most of which have enough depth to keep you surprised and guessing. There are moments I wish were edited out, where the prior subtle nature gives way to startling clarity, clarity that's stark and not necessary in the otherwise elegant understatement. Woof u ...more
While browsing through my book collection, I discovered an interesting trend in it. Across the years, I had collected books by British women writers, writers who were probably well known in their circles, but who were all new-to-me. In the case of most of these books, I picked them up because I liked the plot. In the case of some books, I picked them up, because there was something about the writer that I found interesting, and in some cases, the book had won a literary award. Some of these book ...more
'The Whole Wide Beauty' is a character led story, and although of course there is a plot and various stories that interlink, it is the strength of the characters that carry the novel. None of the main characters are particularly likeable, which for me, made them more interesting and unpredictable. Katherine, the main character is a retired dancer, now a music teacher in a school for 'troublesome' boys and has just embarked on an affair with Stephen, a poet who is a protegee of Katherine's father ...more
I am flying through this and really enjoying it. It's my bread and butter. Not earth-shattering, but quietly powerful, interesting.

Full review in 2 days, I'm guessing.

(Positive review in New Yorker inspired me to read it.)


I finished this last night, and I really enjoyed it. It wasn't mind-blowing. I'm not going to be telling everyone I know to read it. But it was quietly powerful. I also discovered yesterday that the Emily Woof who wrote this book is also a well-known (and gorgeous) British ac
Jane Metter

What makes a good read? It depends on the mood you are in and the choices you face.
If you are at a crossroads this book makes you question the notion of "good enough" - a good enough parent, a good enough daughter, a good enough relationship.
This novel is so visual it should be made into a film! Not only did I feel I knew all the characters but it also made me consider people I knew differently. It propelled me to question the secret internal lives of others. It proved to me that nothing is as
Having read the reviews for this one, I had noted it was a marmite book, and was wondering which side of the fence I was going to come down on! I wasn't expecting the answer to be both!
This book has flashes of genius, beautifully and lyrically written, however it also has moments that are absolutely dire, full of cliche, and frankly I wouldn't be surprised to see it nominated for the bad sex awards!
The characters are all thoroughly unlikeable, especially the self absorbed Katherine, but this isn
seanat (elka)
A very intense absorbing read about family and relationships, the sacrifices made and the search for fulfilment.
I enjoyed this and really got to know and understand the characters involved and what drove them. Not usually a big fan of books where not a lot actually happens but characters really pulled me in.
Quite sad sometimes but ultimately uplifting. Would certainly read more by this author.
Not very impressive. Unfortunately, Woof's style is very much in the 'telling' way of things and less so in the 'showing.' As a result, the characters seem relatively thin and their motivations lack any semblance of truth.
Two bored but not discontented married folk embark on an affair. That pretty much sums up the plot but it is actually a decent exploration of relationships, not just sexual/romantic ones. Woof writes a nice tale.
Ugh... what a miserable book. Only made it about 30 pages in and just couldn't keep reading. The writing is fine, but it's far too gloomy and filled with unlikable characters.
I couldn't engage with the main character and found the writing uninspiring and a liitle dull. A shame, as the blurb promised great things.
Anyone could finish this book in one sitting. The author weaves beautiful characters with complexity and leaves the reader wanting more.
This book is not for everyone. Interesting, well-written, but has some themes and content that may bother most of my friends.
Michele Host
Some beautiful writing and an interesting world, but the protagonist's choices were so baffling and selfish that they rang false.
I guess I would give this a 3.5 if there was such a rating--it was difficult to get into, but then worth it by the end.
Timothy Munro
A deeply and honestly felt story, simply but not simplistically told.
Suzanne marked it as to-read
Oct 05, 2015
Poppy marked it as to-read
Sep 01, 2015
Sarah Johnson
Sarah Johnson marked it as to-read
May 31, 2015
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Born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Emily Woof has written for stage, film and radio.

Her plays include Sex III for the Royal Court, Revolver and Going Going for the South Bank Centre, and, for BBC Radio 4, Pianoman, Baby Love and Home to the Black Sea.

She wrote and directed Meeting Helen for FilmFour, and directed the prize-winning short film Between The Wars. She has also worked as a trapeze artist an
More about Emily Woof...
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