Current Affairs, Guest reviews

Guest Review: Maggie O’Farrell’s The Distance Between Us

The Book Accumulator bought this (or I bought it for him?) on my recommendation. This is what he had to say about it:

Here is a very well-written story of two very close sisters, Stella and Nina, of mixed nationality who don’t fit in at school in xenophobic Scotland. The snippets narrated from their school days are riveting, sometimes alarming. One of the sisters carries an enormous emotional load from those early days, a burden which also prevents her from maintaining relationships or jobs that are better than transitory. Jake, a fascinating mix of freedom and responsibility, arrives on the scene from an engrossingly described Hong Kong also with an unusual but more recently burdened past.

The real stuff of the novel is the characters’ dealing with both the weight of their past and the tensions of their present as they attempt to arrive at more manageable and more satisfying lives. Their love story, while far from inevitable, provides the ending for a novel structured in an impressionistic way.

The author’s technique of writing very short “chapters”, i.e. of changing locations and characters and story-lines rapidly, as well as her preference for laying down myriad brush-strokes of detail, are occasionally annoying but generally create numerous admirably charged, colourful and marvellous worlds, both external and internal.


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