Tuesday, 17 May 2016

This Must Be The Place by Maggie O'Farrell

review by Maryom

When Daniel and Claudette met on a lonely road in Donegal, he was a New York based linguistics professor, bruised and battered by a broken marriage, in Ireland to pick up the ashes of his grandfather, and she was an ex-film star, who had famously disappeared from out of the media spotlight, now hiding out with her young son in a remote, almost derelict, old house. For ten years, they've lived together, had two more children, restored the house, created a home. Life seems to be going well, but then, on the way to visit his estranged father in New York, Daniel hears something disturbing about a woman he knew twenty years before - and his life seems ready to slip off course again.

I haven't read all of Maggie O'Farrell's novels but enough of them to know I'll be settling down to a good read. This Must Be The Place, though, is even better than I expected - in short, engrossing, stunning, compelling, moving, brilliant! 

It tells the story, not only of Claudette and Daniel, but of their wider families - children, siblings, parents, grandparents - juggling a multitude of characters with their individual stories. It doesn't progress in a straight-forward linear way but loops round itself, moving backwards and forwards in time, and from Ireland to the USA to London or Sweden, as the story is teased out, like pulling a length of yarn from a tangled skein, with O'Farrell handling all the threads seemingly with ease (though I'd love to know how she managed to keep track of everything while planning and plotting!) As if that wasn't hard enough, it's told with a variety of different writing styles, moving between first and third person narratives, a script-style interview and an auction listing of Claudette's possessions (which admirably illustrates the scary lengths that 'fans' will go to to possess a little bit of their idol).
I'm not sure Daniel and Claudette are the most loveable book characters ever, but characters with no faults make for a dull book - if they don't have 'real-life' dragons or hijackers to combat, they need internal emotional demons to overcome (otherwise A and B would meet, fall in love and 'lived happily ever after' would come on the second page) In this case, both leads have a streak of self-destructiveness running through their make-up. Daniel's shows in a tendency to drink, to cut himself off from family, to wallow in the remembrance of things that have gone wrong for him. For Claudette, it's her need for extreme privacy - having escaped the invasive media circus that surrounds celebrities, she tends towards a hermit-like existence with an inclination to protect her private space violently if needs be. 
Without it being pointed out and underlined too obsessively, the place, Claudette's tumble-down house, was the healing force that brought them together and helped mend their lives, and those of others around them, but when Daniel leaves on his round of soul-searching, will its influence persist?

In brief, it's a love story about grown-ups; not bright new teenage love but that between older people, set in their ways, not necessarily ready to compromise, and dragging baggage from their past relationships along with them. 
I absolutely loved it! Need I say more?

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - 
 Tinder Press
Genre - 
Adult fiction, 

1 comment:

  1. I've not read O'Farrell, felt a bit daunted by the prospect but still want to nonetheless. This one sounds a good starting place.