Someone at a Distance

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I’m continuing to self-medicate from post-election trauma by inhaling fiction. Dorothy Whipple’s last novel is a roller coaster of emotions, but the characters are too extreme: the doting, loving wife Ellen; the handsome and charming and rich husband Avery who co-owns a publishing firm; precocious daughter Anne who loves her horse and goes to boarding school; son Hugh off in the Army. Avery’s mother hires a French woman as a companion to help her with her French, and enter Louise, the viper, the poisonous snake who lures unsuspecting Avery into her web and breaks up his marriage. Of course, she hates him as he ends up drowning his sorrows in drink because he never wanted to leave his wife and family. Of course, he hates her. Louise’s motivation is to get over the heartbreak of a lover, Paul, in her native village, who marries a rich woman instead of her, the daughter of a bookseller. She gets a moment of flaunting her firs and pearls and rich English husband in front of Paul and his wife, but her parents are horrified to find that she broke up Avery’s marriage and married a divorced man. In the end, Ellen finds strength by breaking off completely, obtaining work at the local hotel which includes a home and a stable for Anne’s horse. One day after Christmas, Avery comes rolling up in the car with Louise, not knowing that Ellen was there. He sees that she still loves him and may forgive him, and determines to get his life back on track. Poor Ellen must then live a double life of secretly caring for her ex-husband while never telling her children about it because they cut him out completely.