The Distance Between Us
Having previously read some time ago, and thoroughly enjoyed Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, I decided a chunky paperback of two of her books — My Lover’s Lover and The Distance Between Us — was a good buy.
Maggie O’Farrell’s language tells a great story and her use of description paints memorable pictures, while her sparse dialogue moves the story along. Though appreciating the quality of writing in My Lover’s Lover, it is at the end of the day a romance, with the narrative starting on one day in London and progressing through other similar days, which didn’t really provide me with much into which to sink my teeth. I was looking for more than a girl meets boy who turns out to be a rotter story so felt an important element was missing.
On the other hand The Distance Between Us has a narrative that alternates between the stories of two people — Jake in Hong Kong, persuaded into a marriage he regrets and finding himself in a position where he has to move to London; and Stella, an Italian Scot who, on an apparent whim, throws up her job in London to travel north. The reason for this, which involves her complex relationship with her sister Nina, is an integral strand that weaves its way through the story until Jake, searching for his Scottish roots, Nina and Stella catch up with one another and their pasts.
The format of this book I found much more satisfying, although still basically a romance. The characters are drawn with more depth and conviction and their individual stories, in Stella’s case meted out morsel by morsel as the layers of her life are peeled away until the final revelation, carried me with fascination through the book, feeling by the end a real engagement with and understanding of the characters and their lives. This structure made for a much more interesting and satisfying read for me than My Lover’s Lover.