Books - Touching Distance

Book: Touching Distance


published by Picador, £8.99

‘A fascinating novel with sound research put to telling use. Evokes beautifully a revolutionary world - science and politics both in upheaval, the casualties strewn around…A book about the shockingly intimate, but it has an epic feel. Beautifully worked.

HILARY MANTEL, author of Wolf Hall

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Shortlisted for the 2009 McKitterick Prize and winner of the
2009 MJA Open Book Award for Fiction.

In the year 1790, a deadly epidemic strikes the Scottish town of Aberdeen. 
The victims, bafflingly, are all women in the prime of life. It falls to one man, 
a young physician named Alexander Gordon, newly arrived in Aberdeen with
his wife and little girl, to save the lives of his patients. But this is a disease 
with no known cause, no known treatment and no known cure…..

Rebecca Abrams’ award-winning first novel, TOUCHING DISTANCE, is a tale of medical discovery, political corruption, and the agony of not being believed. Set against the backdrop of the Scottish Enlightenment, it draw the reader into a past age in which doctors and midwives were fighting for possession of women’s bodies; the world was in the grip of political and scientific revolution, and a generation of young doctors were making huge strides into new and controversial areas of knowledge.

What the critics say

The most incredible novel. The way you showed the agony of discovery, in a shoal of red herrings, was remarkable. Every scientist should read it.’ 
MATT RIDLEY, author of The Red Queen

A history lesson incorporating passion, mystery, skulduggery and a moving love story. Excellent.’ 

A vivid and moving window on a time when, like now, the world was spinning through enormous changes… Truly enjoyable.’ 
INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY….read full review

‘I loved this book. A compelling medical mystery that brings 18th century Aberdeen bursting into life.’ 
ABERDEEN JOURNAL….read full review

‘Forged out of the true story of one of the first medical detectives…well-paced, dramatic and absorbing. ‘ 
THE INDEPENDENT ….read full review

‘Subtle and moving. A novel of fine characterisation and evocative description…. at once informative and emotionally rewarding.’ 
THE SCOTSMAN… full review

A terrific first novel…’ 

Touching Distance is the kind of meticulous and measured writing conspicuously absent from so much of current output. Ms Abrams’ filtering of historical detail – always the story first – makes the tale shockingly immediate: her sense of humanity, and what drives those who serve it, is irresistible. In an age of trivial sex and gratuitous violence, to be reminded of the real facts of life in this haunting story is both timely and necessary. A mystery story, a love story, a historical drama - I can’t imagine a reader who would not be moved by this book.’ 

‘This terrific first novel is a medical whodunit set in a brilliantly-realised Aberdeen in 1790. Protagonist Alec Gordon’s search for the mysterious killer is as thrilling as the autopsy-heavy novels of Patrician Cornwell. The characters and their motivations, both murky and moral, are skilfully brought to life….A very talented writer.’ 
THE BOOK BAG … read full review

‘An accomplished evocation of place and period, and a medical mystery that grows more compelling by the page. Touching Distance is… a novel about the dangerous game of striving for truth, and the sometimes hollow triumph of achieving answers.’ 
THE JEWISH CHRONICLE…. read full review

Intriguing and atmospheric’ 
WOMAN AND HOME… read full review

‘A fascinating and highly readable story woven around a factual foundation with added undercurrents of what I felt sure rippled towards Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea. The sights, sounds and smells of the unpalatable are essential to the story and Rebecca Abrams graphically conveys it all, the ignorance of the 1790s compounded by an unwillingness to listen, enmities and rivalries between the professions and all in the midst of the agonisingly painful deaths endured by the women some five to seven days post delivery. A page-turner of a read.’ 
DOVE GREY READER….read full review

Complex and intelligent. The writing is poetically fluent, the plot is beautifully crafted and the theme provides a chilling reminder of the inherent and continuing dangers of childbirth.’
read full review

‘I can’t think of another work of fiction that captures the heart and the mind of a man pushing at the edge of his understanding in the way this one does…or the costs and consequences.’

‘Brilliantly observed, beautifully written and eminently engaging. I will be recommending it to all and sundry!’ 


Articles about TOUCHING DISTANCE and the story behind it:

Medical matters: Recognition at last for man who should be household name 
THE SCOTSMAN, 23.9.08 … article

Lecture Celebrates Ground-breaking Aberdeen Doctor Shona Gossip, 
ABERDEEN JOURNAL ….read article 

Alexander Gordon: A Prophet In His Own Country  
HISTORY TODAY, August 2008… read article

Inspiring a Great Scot 
UNTITLED BOOKS March 2008…. read article


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