Tag Archives: Fiction

Review: Someone at a Distance

Someone at a Distance Book CoverSomeone at a Distance
By Dorothy Whipple
Persephone Books
September 2008
420pp

The Short of It:

There’s nothing more tragic than a happy marriage, falling apart. BUT, given the subject matter, Someone at a Distance is wickedly good.

The Rest of It:

Ellen is the perfect housewife to Avery, and a doting mother to their two children Hugh and Anne. They live in a gorgeous house in a rural neighborhood just outside of London. Their lives are perfect, until Avery’s mother hires a French girl by the name of Louise to assist her with her day-to-day.

Louise is as venomous as they come. She’s conceited and has such grand ideas of what people think of her, that she considers herself much more than a personal assistant. No, she considers herself a member of the family and when she sets her sights on Avery, things go downhill quickly.

You would have said that there wasn’t a happier family anywhere. Yet disaster was sitting at the table in the form of the French girl. What a queer, chancy thing life was!

Someone at a Distance was a little slow in the beginning, but when Louise sinks her teeth into Avery the story picks up pace and I simply could not put it down. I cannot describe to you how evil Louise is. She’s probably one of the most well-written villains I’ve come across in quite a while.  Perhaps her vile ways were accentuated given the calmness of dear Ellen, the wife, but it’s good storytelling nonetheless.

This is the third Persephone book I’ve read and I have to say, they are quite charming. I tend to read them in bits, here and there as they are just so pleasurable to read but once I got into this story I raced through it.

This would be a lovely book to curl-up with on a rainy day.

Source: Purchased

Review: Middlesex

Middlesex Book Cover

Middlesex
By Jeffrey Eugenides
Picador
2002
544pp

The Short of It:

Middlesex is smartly written, richly layered and brilliant.

The Rest of It:

I raise one fist (male typically) and begin to beat on the walls of my eggshell until it cracks. Then, slippery as yolk, I dive headfirst into the world” (211).

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is about Cal Stephanides. Cal is a hermaphrodite and it’s through his narration that we learn about 5-alpha-reductase deficiency and how it affected his development. Cal begins his story in the present day and then takes us back to the beginning, where his grandparents, Lefty and Desdemona make a decision that will forever change his life.

I hesitate to go into too much detail as there is so much to be discovered in this book, and those discoveries should be made by you, at your own pace. What I can say, is that Middlesex blew me away. It’s a complex, meaty type of read but the best kind of read…one told with humor and a definite voice.

It’s epic in scope but remarkably readable. The themes of identity, re-birth, transformation, race relations and nature vs. nurture are balanced out with humor and characters that breathe the same air we do. These themes speak to everyone, which is probably why Middlesex won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2003.

I read this novel for my Contemporary Lit class and it was well-received by everyone. Even the non-readers in the class had something to say about this book and although I finished it weeks ago, I am still re-reading passages. It’s definitely one of my faves for 2010.

If this novel escaped your radar when it first came out, I urge you to pick it up now.

Source: Purchased for my Contemporary Lit class.