Janelle's Reviews > Someone at a Distance

Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple
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Mar 14, 11

Read from March 11 to 13, 2011

I'm not sure where I read about this book - it's been on my "to read" list for a while now. It was originally published in 1953 and has been reprinted as a Persephone Classic. The jacket says "Persephone Books reprints forgotten twentieth century novels, short stories, cookery books and memoirs by (mostly) women writers. They appeal to the discerning reader who prefers books that are neither too literary nor too commercial, and are guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking and impossible to forget. In 2008 some of the bestselling Persephone titles were launched as Classics."

I definitely found this story to be readable - the pages turned quite quickly. It is about an elderly British aristocrat who hires a young French woman to be her companion for a time. The French woman, Louise, becomes intertwined in this woman's life and that of her son's family, who lives nearby. The characters were somewhat intriguing, though I can't say I really liked many of them. In this novel, the character of Louise is particularly loathesome, and one constantly wonders why the others don't do more to keep her from infecting their lives. Yet they don't, and with dire consequences. Even the characters who seem to genuinely care for her (Paul, her parents) didn't persuade me - I can't see WHY they like her. Louise is the one with the strongest sense of agency - everyone else is just being batted about in life (and sometimes, by her). I found this rather annoying. Buck up, people! Could this be a statement about British post-WWII upperclass society?

The other thing I kept noticing about this book is that I could not remember its title. I could remember the author's name, but the title was so banal that I just could not recall it, even after checking the cover time and time again.

I'm not sure that the Persephone books are right for me... though admittedly, this is the only one I've read.
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