Hastings District Libraries

Friday, 28 April 2017

This must be the place by Maggie O’Farrell

There are some authors who are my “go to” for a great read. Writers like Joanna Trollope, Lisa Genova and Jodi Picoult. Authors I know will deliver a well written story with characters that stay in your head long after the last page is read. Books that I don’t even read the cover notes for as I know I am going to enjoy the book. Although sometimes I do read the cover notes and they can really put me off the book. As was the case in Jodi Picoult’s Lone Wolf which I put off reading for two years, which I regret now as it is such a good book. Even MVOJB (My very own James Bond) enjoyed it.

Maggie O’Farrell is another one of these authors. Because these books take over my life I usually restrict them to holiday reading. However This Must Be the Place was sitting on the recently returned shelf and I couldn’t resist taking it home.

Sticking to my self-imposed rules, I didn’t read the cover notes but after reading the first paragraph my heart sinks. The main character is a male. Like my other “go to” authors, Maggie O’Farrell books always have strong female characters. However I persevered and am I glad I did as this is a cracker read.

Daniel is an American linguistic professor living with wife and family in Ireland. We quickly learn that Daniel and family are not conventional and that Daniel has children from a previous marriage in the States who he is estranged from. Claudette, his wife and former film star, lives the life of a recluse albeit with family in tow. In one of the storylines, Daniel sets out initially to attend his father’s 90th birthday. However he becomes side-tracked when he tries to discover what happened to a woman he lost touch with 20 years ago. The narratives of Claudette and the other members of Daniel’s family are interwoven with the book travelling backwards and forwards through time.

I would usually be very frustrated with the use of multiple first person characters as I never want to leave the character when the author decides to move on to the next one. Timelines that jump all over the place is another pet peeve as I struggle to keep all the threads together. Due entirely to O’Farrell’s ability to keep me engaged I never lost sight of what was happening. These writing techniques work as they allow the reader to really engage with the flawed characters. Complex, often dysfunctional relationships are the norm for this writer and it is this as much as her masterful story telling that makes this book such a satisfying read.

Posted by Miss Moneypenny

Catalogue link: This Must Be the Place

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