The title of the novel comes from Robert Frost’s poem “Revelation,” in which “a place apart” represents some hidden part in each person. As she matures, Victoria comes to realize that there is less that can be said, more that must be kept hidden. This realization leads to the eventual acceptance of her mother’s new and private love life; moreover, it allows Victoria to develop her own private existence when, for example, she keeps her meeting with Tom in the hospital a secret. Along with privacy, A Place Apart deals with several common themes: loss, teenage anxiety, and, most prominently, relationships.
Structurally and thematically, the novel is designed to reflect Victoria’s search for security and certainty. The first sentence is one of her reminiscences: When she was ten, she thought that all of her confusion would be cleared up if someone told her the meaning of life. At thirteen and after the sudden and unexpected death of her father, Victoria comes to suspect that the world is random and incomprehensible. After the move to New Oxford, her sense of displacement and insecurity becomes greater. Thus, when she meets Hugh Todd, Victoria is especially vulnerable to his manipulation. Instead of a confused, indefinite perception of the world, Hugh offers a simplistic, judgmental point-of-view to which Victoria readily clings. While his ability to categorize others underscores his belief in his own superiority, it represents to...
(The entire section is 569 words.)