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Old 2nd Sep 2007, 16:02   #11
Beth
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Default Re: Book 35: The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell

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On my last reread I gave Jane Eyre 4 stars, but the more I think about it, the more I think this is the ultimate romance, the Mother of Them All . And all the more I admire Charlotte for not doing it again and writing Villette instead - which at least in my reading is more ironical take on romance.
Villette is coming to haunt me along with Lolita as an essential that I must get to. Then there's Pride & Prejudice, certainly filling the playful romance spot in my mind. So after Mother of Them All, Irony, and Playful, do we really need any others? Last week I was at a conference and around the whirlpool, we talked briefly about what each were reading. It was all these stupid, formulaic romance novels. Then it dawned on me that I was reading one as well. Under Palimp sanction makes it okay, though.
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Old 4th Sep 2007, 10:29   #12
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Default Re: Book 35: The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell

Ah, I just finished this and gave it .

It irritated me as well. There was a point very early on when I knew I was lost:

Nina places the phone on the floor next to her and dials the code for London, then the number. There is a short pause before the pulsing purr of a distant ringing.
She waits, frowning, picking apart one of the sandwiches Richard made for her that morning, extracting the silvery half-moons of onion. He knows she doesn't eat raw onion.

Bah. I think I would have written something like this:

Nina placed the phone on the floor next to her and dialled the number.
She waited, listening to the pulsing ring, picking apart one of the sandwiches Richard made for her that morning, extracting the silvery half-moons of onion.

Here are all the things that annoy me. Some of them come up frequently.

1. The use of the present tense. Lots of people do this very well in fiction (though I can't think of any- I'm just being generous). It seems like a very simple stylistic trick that achieves very little.
2. The ringing Nina hears isn't actually distant, is it? It's emitted by her phone handset. It represents the ringing of the other phone, but it isn't actually the other phone!
3. I didn't need to be told that Nina doesn't like onions, and I can guess at what this implies about her relationship with her husband.
4. It all feels like it was written for the purpose of being optioned by a film producer. That's why I think all those background details noises are there, like the ice cream van and the lawnmower.

It's just the book of a fairly sappy and poor film that hasn't been made, I think.
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Old 4th Sep 2007, 15:25   #13
Ang
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Default Re: Book 35: The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell

Nicely put, BeccaK.

I can't wait to hear what amner thinks of it!
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Old 4th Sep 2007, 22:20   #14
Kimberley
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Default Re: Book 35: The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell

It's been ages since I read this so I really can't make any specific comments. I do want to raise the issue of present tense writing, however, because it seems a rather strange stylistic choice to criticise. Becca, I can think of many reasons why an author would choose it (in terms of narrative strategy, for example, in first person writing, wanting to remove the sense of time having passed between action and telling, with the implication that choices have been made about what to put in/ what to leave out, that the consequences of the action are known to the narrator though concealed from us.) I think it can change the whole nature of a reading experience -- which is where I must bow out because I can't remember much of this I do wonder though, what ways the use of past tense might have enhanced your enjoyment of the book?
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Old 5th Sep 2007, 9:24   #15
BeccaK
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Default Re: Book 35: The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell

I can see that O'Farrell probably chose it for a very specific reason - because her narrative jumps around in past and present, and yet she wants all that she's portraying to seem equally immediate. The present tense perhaps helps her to achieve that.
I think it irritated me because the past/present division was still clearly there. And I felt as if perhaps the author was using it in order to appear clever.
And because O'Farrell was writing about how the past events in these characters lives had led to their present state, and presenting it all in present tense, therefore, doesn't help us to see this, doesn't help us to see event ---> consequence in quite the same way.

But, having defended my position, Kimberley, I think I'll admit that you're being quite fair in raising this. I think that it just niggled with me, and I'm not sure why.
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Old 5th Sep 2007, 10:45   #16
Ang
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Default Re: Book 35: The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell

From a non-analytical point of view, and purely as how it reads, the example given by BeccaK sounds like someone writing a play rather than a novel.


Quote:
Nina places the phone on the floor next to her and dials the code for London, then the number.
Stage direction...
Quote:
There is a short pause before the pulsing purr of a distant ringing.
Cue for the sound technician...
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Old 12th Sep 2007, 12:15   #17
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Default Re: Book 35: The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell

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I can't wait to hear what amner thinks of it!
Well, I'm sorry I've made you wait!

I'm afraid MO'F and I have parted company without a satisfactory conclusion. I crawled to the 100 page mark and then gave in.

I knew that I was in trouble when, with nothing to do but read (I was sat waiting in a car for 90 minutes), I chose to listen to Paul McKenna telling me how he could make me rich, rather than read TDBU.

I wasn't interested in Stella, or Jake, and I found the present tense thing horribly affected. Better examples abound, and normally - for me - gives a great sense of pace and excitement, but this was moribund, and I winced continually.

Having watched all 6 episodes of Love Soup (two protagonists living seperate lives) recently, I found I was yearning to watch that again, rather than be immersed in the characters presented.

Chick-lit-shit, sorry guys.
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Old 12th Sep 2007, 12:19   #18
Ang
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Default Re: Book 35: The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell

Oh well, they can't all be great!

Off to remind myself what's coming next month...
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