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Someone at a Distance

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,463 ratings  ·  237 reviews
Written in 1953, the last book by novelist Dorothy Whipple, Someone at a Distance is a story about the destruction of a marriage. Ellen is “that unfashionable creature, a happy housewife” who loves her life in the English countryside. She tends her garden, dotes on her children, and, when she remembers, visits her cantankerous mother-in-law. This domestic bliss, however, is shatte ...more
Paperback, Persephone Classics, 413 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Persephone (first published 1953)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,463 ratings  ·  237 reviews

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Helene Jeppesen
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Once again, I've fallen in love with one or Dorothy Whipple's books, and I'm excited to read even more by her...
"Someone at a Distance" is about Louise who is one of the most atrocious characters I've ever read about. She's selfish, manipulating and heartless and right from the beginning you can't help but feel great distaste for her.
As an opponent to Louise we have Ellen who is the wife of Avery and has two lovely children. How the story of Louise and Ellen is mingled, I won't give away,
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have never read Dorothy Whipple before, although I have come across her name many times; especially on the podcast, “Tea or Books?” When this title was suggested on a book group I belong to, I read it with interest.

Published in 1953, this is not my typical read, but I was immediately drawn in. It is the story of the North family – wife Ellen, publisher husband, Avery, their son Hugh, who is doing National Service and horse obsessed daughter, Anne, who is still at school. Avery’s de
Emer (A Little Haze)
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who love books about ordinary people
Fantastic!!! Just fantastic.
This is EXACTLY the kind of book I love to read.
Intelligent writing that is poignant yet witty. The perfect combination.

Someone at a Distance is one of those novels that overtime was forgotten and lay languishing in some dusty corner of the literary world until those wise people at Persephone Books reissued it as one of the books in their Classics series. And how delighted I am that they did! I had never heard of the author Dorothy Whipple until I stumbled across this book in m
Alice Lippart
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
A really enjoyable read. Loved the characters!
Fiona MacDonald
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
Although a rather hefty book, 'Someone at a Distance' really packs a punch and becomes addictive reading once you get past the first dozen pages or so. The characters are drawn so clearly and concisely that it pains you to read of their downfall. The theme of adultery is covered with intensity and the relationships between father and daughter before and after are heartbreaking. Dorothy Whipple really 'feels' her characters and I was enchanted, devastated and then momentarily happy as I experienc ...more
Resh (The Book Satchel)
Apr 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One word review - Read this book.

This book is one of my best reads of 2016. Someone at a Distance is the story of an ordinary family torn apart by the entry of a French woman named Louise. You are introduced to a middle class happy family- Avery and Ellen, one daughter and a son. Avery is a handsome publisher with a good pay and Ellen enjoys gardening and running the household. Their self sufficiency causes resentment in Avery's mom and she starts complaining they (especially Ellen) doesn't pay attenti
As soon as the book was handed to me by a bookseller, I was in love. It had a luscious painting on the cover, and was otherwise gray. I found myself holding a beautifully constructed paperback, with wallpaper from the era of the original printing of the book on endpages. It was just what I was looking for.

It was a copy of Dorothy Whipple’s Someone at a Distance, originally published in 1953, reprinted by Persephone Books in London.

I am relatively late in discovering Perse
Dec 17, 2008 added it
Recommended to Hol by: Found at Micawber's Books (in Minneapolis)
This 1953 novel features a county of resourceful and morally upstanding British women versus one husband-thieving French tart who is so diabolical that her mere presence can make a baby vomit. How I love Persephone Books.
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written story, full of empathy for the characters. My heart broke for the family, who I felt I had got to know and love.
Ellen and Avery are happily married with 2 children Hugh and Anne. His Mother lives not far away and is lonely and resentful that the family don't spend more time with her so she advertises for a companion. Louise, living in France, has recently been jilted by her lover, who has married a woman with better social standing, so she wants to get away from the
(It's been awhile since I've written a review, so this may come out sort of stream of consciousness, but I'll shape up soon as I get back in the swing, I promise...)

I've been lucky enough to come across several authors like Dorothy Whipple. She writes what I'm sure would be-and was- condescendingly referred to as "domestic fiction," full of the concerns of the lives of women and their families. In this case, it was a story that could not be more typical or made fun of- happy family,
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
How could I not give this the full five *s? I haven't been this compelled to find out what was going to happen in a fictional story for a very long time. From the Sunday to Thursday in which I read all 413 pages, I didn't want to look away.

And the physical book is lovely. A Persephone Classic that appeals in every way, reminiscent of my beloved NYRB editions. But it really comes down to what is inside, right? I had never even heard of Dorothy Whipple until Chris (thank you Chris!) sh
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I need to read everything by Dorothy Whipple now! This book started a bit slow but once it got going I couldn't put it down. The premise is fairly basic (a happy family is torn apart by infidelity) but something about the way it unfolds was so compelling I couldn't stop reading. At times I wanted to scream at these characters to see sense, I wanted to make sure that Mademoiselle got her comeuppance, but all that frustration is the sign of a good read, right? This book was the perfect way to spen ...more
Misha  Mathew
Someone at a Distance, written and also set in the post-World War II years, is the story of a seemingly happy family – Ellen, her husband, Avery, and their 2 kids. Their happiness is the envy of everyone. They seem to be in a world of their own, so happy they hardly need anyone else. Yet, the flaws in this overt happiness become visible as Louise, a French girl, enters their lives as Avery’s mother’s companion, with an objective to disrupt their relationships. As Avery gets attracted to Louise a ...more
This tale of marriage and adultery has a rather pedestrian plot, but outstanding characterization; Whipple's lovely prose and the interest she creates in how the characters are going to react to each other and to events make the book utterly absorbing.
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A wonderful writer, a wonderful story. The 2nd old-as-time story! If you have this edition, DON'T read the foreword. It just gives way too much away, more than just reading the usual blurbs.

Yes, there were certain plot twists at the end that were too convenient, but I think they all reinforced Ellen's character of being genuinely sincere person. And not always at the expense of herself--even as a full time wife she still gardened which she enjoyed.

Perhaps the moral is to do right by the people
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
(First published in 2015.)

After a few not very good and rather disappointing reads, I really felt in the mood for a Persephone. I adore the books which they publish, and for me, they are one of the most important publishing houses which exists today. Dorothy Whipple is an author who seems to be one of the most adored on the Persephone list, and I was eager to begin another of her novels. Someone at a Distance was first published in 1953.

Someone at a Distance is introduced by Nina Bawden, an autho/>Someone
May 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This really is a beautifully written novel. The sad story of the ruin of a happy family, may seem like something we have read before. However Dorothy Whipple writes so well, and with such feeling, that the reader watches the slow crumble of this likeable family with real regret. Things build slowly, culminating in the destruction of a once happy family. By the time the novel reaches this point, the reader feels they know this family intimately - people who are never happier than when they with o ...more
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
'There are times in our lives when the slightest move is dangerous' writes Dorothy Whipple in her last novel she wrote in 1953.
Avery North has it all, a successful job, a lovely home , a loving caring wife and two children .When Avery's elderly mother advertises for a companion, along comes French girl Louise Lanier who turns everyone's lives upside down.
My first Dorothy Whipple book and i absolutely loved it. It's so well written and the characters will stay with me for a very long
Laura Bergen
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-english
This is the first novel I read from Persephone Books and, therefore, the first from Dorothy Whipple. I'm glad to say the very positive reviews I had read about this author were true. Someone at a Distance is a remarcable novel about consequences, about how our decisions, no matter how dull or unimportant they seem, can affect people we don't even know. I liked the second half of the novel much better, but all of it is enjoyable. Dorothy Whipple knew how to build her characters: she describes them in the ...more
Roger Pettit
May 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When in my local library or a bookshop, I often pick up and glance at one of the growing list of books published by Persephone. Their plain grey covers and their shape and size give them a distinctive air. However, until now, I had never taken the plunge and borrowed or bought one. But the informal book group that I belong to reached a consensus recently that we should read 'Someone at a Distance' by Dorothy Whipple. I am so pleased that we did (and I am very grateful to the friend who suggested ...more
Amanda Brookfield
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book - intelligent, at times very funny, but also deeply poignant. It tells the story of a marriage that is gradually destroyed thanks to the arrival of a 'viper' into its happy nest. What touched me most was the deft and gentle revelation of how deeply fragile even the most secure human relationships are, built as they are on that invisible cornerstone we call trust.

Dorothy Whipple was extremely successful for a period in her own writing life - the 1930s and 1940
This is such a beautiful, simple (deceptively so), quiet book, that packs such an emotional punch. Definitely want to read more Whipple in the future.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-en, fiction, 2017
There are obvious similarities between Dorothy Whipple's novel and The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins (which I read only a few months before), in subject (a marriage falling apart), setting (rural England), time period (Britain after the war) etc. I was so engrossed in "The Tortoise" and I enjoyed it so much, I almost feel bad I didn't like Someone at a Distance a little more. However, Whipple writes beautifully and she's a keen observer, I will probably read anything by her, given the ...more
Alun Williams
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have never come across Persephone Classics before, nor the writer of this book, and both are welcome discoveries. This imprint appears to be ploughing a similar furrow to many of the original Virago Modern Classics: rescuing from obscurity interesting and well-written novels by or about women that have been unjustly forgotten. This novel fits into that category well, describing as it does an at first idyllically happy marriage and home in 1950s England. Unfortunately, neither Ellen North, the ...more
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, infidelity
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 ...more
Mary wilhelm
Mar 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What was truly insightful about this books was the "expectation of women". After WWII in England, many in the upper classes found it difficult to find domestic help. Many of the jobs that were once live-in were almost impossible to find. That meant that many of these wealthy women would have to take care of a huge house by herself. The way in which Dorothy Whipple describes this is extremely sympathetic. And of course the men would NEVER help out. The series of events is devastating - really. Th ...more
Elena Sala
This is the story of the destruction of a happy marriage, a deceptively simple plot which, nevertheless, offers entertainment as well as social commentary.
The novel is set in post war rural England and tells the tale of a naive, good woman and her foolish, proud husband. The family is torn apart by a flirtatious, vain young French woman who, very aptly, identifies herself with Emma Bovary.
While it is true that the couple derived their unity from their two children, especially the young d
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was really a 3.5 star book for me, but I liked it overall. Well-written, carefully observed, and generally an engrossing story. I did have serious misgivings about the ending, though, which is possibly why I didn't rate it higher. I felt that after the journey the characters take in the book, I didn't want it to go there. It did masterfully paint a picture of what happens to Ellen, the main character, as the world as she knows it comes crashing down around her. Just as enjoyable was seeing ...more
Aug 15, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Whipple doesn't let you down in the storytelling department. Another unputdownable although its characters and actual plot line are not as convincing as The Priory and They Were Sisters. Women are either saintly mothers and housewives or - well, Madonnas and whores come to mind. The men, are weak but redeemable!
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Reading the 20th ...: Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple (June/July 2018) 116 26 Jul 14, 2018 01:53AM  

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Born in 1893, DOROTHY WHIPPLE (nee Stirrup) had an intensely happy childhood in Blackburn as part of the large family of a local architect. Her close friend George Owen having been killed in the first week of the war, for three years she worked as secretary to Henry Whipple, an educational administrator who was a widower twenty-four years her senior and whom she married in 1917. Their life was mos ...more
“All those books, all those prayers and she had got nothing from them. When everything went well for her she had been able to pray, she couldn't now. There was such urgency in her present situation that until the pressure was removed she couldn't think about God. She hadn't the patience to pray. It was a shock to her. Surely God was for these times?” 6 likes
“She had learnt to wait for the changes and the help that life brings. Life is like the sea, sometimes you are in the trough of the wave, sometimes on the crest. When you are in the trough, you wait for the crest, and always, trough or crest, a mysterious tide bears you forward to an unseen, but certain shore. In” 6 likes
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