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The Distance Between Us

‘Maggie O’Farrell has written three novels, each of them a critical and commercial success … her confidence in her characters’ plausibility is endearing … She tends to their emotional lives with the inexhaustible tenderness of a doting mother’ FT



  1. What would you have done in Jake’s position when Mel wanted to marry him and the doctors told him she would not survive the night?
  1. It was because he married Mel and had to come back to England that Jake met Stella. How different would the novel have been if he had stayed in Hong Kong?
  1. The novel involves characters trying to escape their pasts, but also find their roots. How successful are each of the main characters in doing this?
  1. Do you think the author should have brought Jake’s father into the novel at some point, or would this have been too much of a distraction from the main story?

  1. Do Caroline and Francesca strike you as good mothers? In what ways are they similar?
  1. Do you like Nina? What redeeming qualities does she have?
  1. How successfully does the author evoke the atmospheres of the different countries that the book is set in?
  1. How satisfying do you find the ending? Could the book have finished any other way?
  1. Nina and Stella have a very complicated relationship. How much of it do you think is jealousy, and how much is love and protection?
  1. How well do you think the shifting time scale works?
  1. When Nina meets Jake, what motivates him to behave the way she does.  Is she bored and in need of attention, or trying to get one up on her sister?
  1. In the novel, various people are living in different countries to those they originated from – Francesca, Caroline, Jake. In what ways do you think this alters their identities?
  1. How much do you think Nina and Stella’s relationship is affected by what Stella did to Anthony when she was eight? Do you think their relationship might have been different if had this not happened?

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