The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell
|The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell|
|Genre: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Kerry King|
|Summary: Contrary to her previous works, O'Farrell has set out to write a story that is neither confusing nor has an unsatisfying ending. This is a heart-warming tale of two sisters and the man who makes all the difference to them both.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: January 2005|
|Publisher: Headline Book Publishing|
Stella and Nina are sisters who are joined by much more than blood and childhood. Stella doesn't remember a time there wasn't Nina. And Nina does not thrive without Stella, for Stella is the air Nina breathes.
We begin the story with Jake, British-Chinese, the son of an English mother and Scottish father, conceived on the Hippy Trail in India during the 70s and born into the hue and cry of Hong Kong. Jake is celebrating Chinese New Year in Hong Kong when he becomes instinctively aware that the street party he is caught in the midst of is about to go dangerously wrong. As if he has written the script, his girlfriend Mel's best friend Lucy is suddenly swallowed by the crowd and Mel is torn from his fingertips, pitched forward on a tidal wave of revellers, each becoming more and more hysterical at the change of tempo of their evening. Unable to keep his balance in the surge any longer, Jake loses his footing. He is aware of an intense pain in his arm and shoulder before a blissful darkness steals him.
On the other side of the world, whilst Jake awakens in a hospital to the news that Lucy is dead and his girlfriend is dying, Stella moves through her flat, sweating with fear; the face of the red-headed man is everywhere she looks. Stubbornly ignoring a persistently ringing phone that she knows will be her sister Nina, Stella hastily packs a bag; clothes, a jacket, a map, her wallet and a compass. Once she is in her car, Stella begins to compose herself and when she sees a motorway sign saying "Scotland, The North", the beginnings of a smile spread across her face as she accelerates, alone, into a future that is also her past.
Much is made of Maggie O'Farrell's writing. My Lover's Lover and After You'd Gone were heralded with critical acclaim and prizes. I read both and in the way that I could not get into other award-winning authors' novels, I struggled with them equally. I found one as disjointed and random as the other, so I suppose The Distance Between Us was my and Ms. O' Farrell's last chance saloon and I am pleased that I persevered. It seems I am able to "get" prize-winning literature after all.
The Distance Between Us is beautifully written, switching deftly between the present and the past, interlacing the sequence of events so that no explanation of either is required. O'Farrell's characters are deeply, humanly flawed and all the more credible for it. I fell a little bit in love with Jake, his values and honour making him terribly unhappy as he tries to do the right and best thing and I became persistently stymied by Stella and her stubborn streak a mile wide, her resistance to the rest of the world and the people in it. I think I was meant to, which means a tale well told by Ms. O'Farrell.
I feel particularly that I must recommend this book to you if you read O'Farrell's other offerings and, as I did, failed to feel her charm. The Distance Between Us holds little in common with either of the previous two and stands proudly apart in the subject matter and the journey taken through the lives of the three main characters.
You may also enjoy Sleep With Me by Joanna Briscoe which is hauntingly told and achingly bittersweet. If you are hankering along the lines of other prize-winning literature crafted from a story-teller's standpoint, you might like to try Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves.
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Reviews of other books by Maggie O'Farrell
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