As soon as I joined the blogging world there was one word that kept cropping up on many reviews: Persephone. And then I saw pictures of these beautiful books and I had vague recollections of seeing some of these when I worked in a bookshop, but I had never really paid them much attention. I knew that Persephone Books published forgotten novels from the twentieth century, mainly by women writers, but that was about it. So several months ago in a lovely little cafe/second hand bookshop I found a copy of Someone at a Distance and for £1 you can’t really say no.
Someone at a Distance, as my blurb tells me, is a novel about ‘a deceived wife and a foolish husband,’ which perfectly sums the novel up. Ellen has been married to Avery for twenty years, they have two teenage children and live in a beautiful house outside of London. Avery commutes to work in the city and Ellen spends her days gardening and caring for her family. Avery’s elderly mother lives nearby, and feeling neglected by her daughter-in-law and the rest of her family, she places an advert for a companion. And then Louise appears. After a love affair ends bitterly in France, Louise journeys to England in an attempt to escape from her past and reinvent herself as a fashionable and well travelled young lady. Before long Louise has taken full advantage of Ellen’s sweet nature and ruthlessly threatens the North’s marriage.
This novel was slow burning yet I couldn’t put it down. The life of the Norths is beautifully and realistically described througut and it is clear they are a loving and supportive family at the start of the novel. Time was taken to explore Louise’s past and the various reasons why she acts the way she does, from being spoilt by her parents to a bitter love affair doomed because of wealth and class. Whipple doesn’t rush the novel, she takes her time setting the scene and developing her characters, so you truly come to know and understand the characters and share in the agonising events that affect their lives.
For me the stand out character was that of Louise, only because I found her a truly hateful character. She is spiteful, selfish and manipulative, she treats those around her, especially her parents and Ellen atrociously, and feels she is far superior to anyone else around her. Why shouldn’t every man she meets fall in love with her? Why shouldn’t she travel first class everywhere? Why don’t people realise now glamorous and sophisticated she is? Goodness she is so self centred. She goes after Avery due to boredom and yet persists in staying with him despite the fact both of them are miserable, purely for money, status and spite.
Sometimes I feel as though I always gush over the books I read, declaring how much I love them and how amazing they are, and lots of them really are. But for me this is probably the most true to life and touching book I have blogged about and I cannot wait to read more work my Dorothy Whipple, and even discovering more Persephone authors.