The emotions in Tana French's new book Faithful Place: A Novel explode on the page and inside the reader. I felt tackled by this book. As soon as I started reading it, I was grabbed and held hostage. All my senses were caught up in the narrative. I had difficulty coming up for air even though I knew it was necessary once in a while. I lived this book 24/7 until I had finished it. That's Tana French for you.
The story begins with Frank Mackey, 19 years old, waiting for his true love, Rosie Daly, to meet him. They have plans to run away from their dysfunctional homes and neighborhood in Dublin to make a new life together in England. They are totally and fiercely in love as only first loves can be. Rosie never shows up. Frank waits until morning and then proceeds alone, never knowing what happened to Rosie but thinking, deep down, that she'd changed her mind and decided not to go with him. He doesn't make it as far as England but he does manage to start a new life for himself in Dublin.
Ever since that time, Frank keeps hoping that he'll hear from Rosie. No one in her family, nor any of her friends know where she is and no one has heard from her. Frank hears nary a word, ever.
Faithful Place, the neighborhood he's leaving, is close to Trinity College but is a world away. People in `The Place' "stank of stale nicotine and stale Guinness, with a saucy little top-note of gin". People held grudges and if they were not on the dole, they worked at the Guiness plant or at odd jobs. Those who worked regularly had nothing to show for it. You knew everyone and heard conversations and arguments going on from windows and in the streets. People grew up together and had decades of knowledge about each other.
Fast-forward twenty-two years. Frank is an undercover detective with the Irish police force. He has been estranged from his family for twenty-two years, except for one sister, Jackie. Jackie gives him a frantic call that a suitcase was found in a derelict apartment building near his family's home and it appears to have belonged to Rosie. Soon after the suitcase is found, so is Rosie's body. From that time onward, Frank decides that he must find out what happened to Rosie that night.
Tana French has a wonderful way of juxtaposing the present culture of Dublin with arts, culture, and events of other cities and times. She gives the reader credit for being smart and understanding who she is talking about whether it's Jim Morrissey, Tim Burton, Jeffrey Dahmer, Mario Lanza or Kojak. She'll interject wonderful sentences into her writing. For instance, "The dim orange glow coming from nowhere in particular gave the garden a spiky Tim Burton look". One of my favorites is, ` "Kojak's on the trail" Shay said, to the gold sky. "Who loves you baby?" `
The narrative goes back and forth in time and we're privy to the horrific family of origin that Frank came from. His `da' is a raging alcoholic and his `ma' gives Olivia Soprano a run for her money. His siblings would just as soon stab one another with an ice pick than share a civil word. The dialogue is crisp and anguished. There is no doubt or subtlety about what is happening in the Mackey family.
When Frank returns to their midst after his twenty-two year absence, things are twisted up a bit. His da realizes that Frank must have an agenda and tells Frank to get the hell out of Dodge. Most people wouldn't talk to their worst enemy the way that Frank's father talks to him. This is a family filled and fueled by hatred. Frank, however, is there to stay. He has things to do and information to find out.
The book falls together perfectly. There are no weak spots and the the two primary narratives - the mystery about Rosie's death and the story of Frank's family - meld together well. Tana French is a wonder. She has the Irish gift of the gab and I advise you not to start this book unless you're willing to be grabbed and held captive by its power.
The titular words are a quote from the novel. It begins with the recollections of Francis "Frank" Mackey about a pivotal event when he was nineteen. Late one December night he slipped out of his miserable Dublin home for a rendezvous with his lover, Rosie Daly. They planned to elope, leaving for London. But she never showed, and Frank never saw her again. He found a note from her which seemed to indicate that she was dumping him and leaving alone. Likely, she had crossed into England and never looked back, cutting off contact with her own unhappy family and her cold, tyrannical father.
Twenty-two years have passed; Frank has married and divorced. Now, he's an undercover detective for "the Guard," the Dublin police. The very suitcase surfaces that Rosie took with her that fateful December night, and it's fully packed. This leads Frank to hunt for Rosie. What follows is a most suspenseful crime story. It's also a brilliant study of family dynamics.
Frank has a large family with large problems. That's why he had been willing to run away to London. He hates his abusive father, and has very few warm feelings for his mother and older brother. It seems Frank is surrounded by hard-drinking people who get mean(er) when they're drunk. They are profane and violent. Crude and rude. And hanging over it all is a dreary culture of poverty.
Author Tana French is a master wordsmith. She has great insight into what makes humans tick, both on the dark and bright side. She looks at the Mackey family and the other key characters up close and personal. She has Frank tell the story himself, and Frank casts grave doubts on his own character. The reader wonders if Frank has indeed been driven insane by his own twisted family.
Most highly recommended.
If you haven't read Tana French's In the Woods and The Likeness: A Novel, then now is definitely the time to start acquainting yourself with this great author. With every new novel (and this is her third one) Tana French is showing signs of a creative growth that are nothing short of remarkable. I have been eagerly awaiting the release of her Faithful Place: A Novel and I'm happy to report that this novel will not disappoint either French's fans or her new readers who are only now discovering her work.
Tana French's writing is beautiful. She has a way of describing modern-day Ireland that will leave you completely enamored of this fascinating country. In my opinion, nobody creates more powerful descriptions of today's Dublin than this writer. French's sentences are always beautifully constructed, the characters are incredibly well-crafted, and the plot lines are engrossing.
The best thing about Tana French for me is her capacity to create a very unique first-person perspective in every one of her novels. Each book is narrated in a voice that is very unique and absolutely unforgettable. Faithful Place: A Novel is very different in terms of its first-person narrator from French's previous two novels. Her fans are used to this author creating very endearing, complex characters whom you cannot fail to admire. In this new novel, however, we encounter a very different kind of character. Francis Mackey is not an extremely attractive character, to say the least. He is self-involved, selfish, and often very mean. He tortures his ex-wife to punish her for moving on after their divorce, he is mean to his aging mother, and he thinks nothing of hurting his little daughter's feelings just to run off and investigate an old girlfriend's disappearance. He has been obsessed with his former girlfriend Rosie for twenty years and has never been able to get over her apparent desertion. In short, Frank is a character one is hard pressed to like.
It's is a mark of a very good writer, however, to be able to make one's readers care about the main character who is as difficult to admire as Frank Mackey. Tana French achieves that and more. The book is an absolute pleasure to read. As much as you might want to get to the solution of the mystery of Rosie's disappearance and Frank's painful relationship with his family, you will still want to linger over each beautifully written sentence.
I'm a fan of this author. Even so, I was left in awe at how she exceeded my expectations - and they were already high. The plot is totally riveting. Imagine if you loved someone deeply, were planning to run away with that person (to escape a difficult family situation and simply escape). The person never shows up. You assume you've been left in the lurch.
Now jump ahead. You are a detective. Twenty years have gone by and suddenly you discover that a suitcase appears, one that was to be used during the escape with your beloved. Maybe things aren't what they seem. Maybe the person you love was abducted - or something else happened. Maybe that person loved you all along.
With a skilled writer like Tana French, someone who not only tells a great story but also helps readers see, feel and even imagine hearing the environment in Dublin...this book becomes one that is impossible to put down. She also doesn't talk down to her readers or feel inclined to explain every cultural reference.
This isn't a light read so be prepared to immerse yourself in this book and not come up for air until you know what has happened. I've kept this review short, not filling in too many details, because I'm hoping readers of this review know enough to realize that the plot is minor compared to how a strong writer creates a vivid sense of place, atmosphere, story, and characters. This same plot could be nothing in the hands of an amateur and the plot isn't all that original (two people love each other, one disappears, etc).
But the evolution of this tale is hypnotic as well as family dynamics that continue to play out.
on July 15, 2010
I was disappointed by this book. I so loved her first two, and The Likeness is still seared into my brain from last summer -- what I was doing (or not doing!) when I read it, where I was, how it felt to be inside that story. This one just didn't have the same effect on me. It was good, well-written, and I read it just as quickly as the first two, but I expected a whole lot more. To me it read more like a Jerry Springer-esque family drama than a crime novel, and whereas the first two kept you guessing up til the very end, this one I knew who the culprit was about half way through the book. Nowhere near as tightly plotted as the first two, and the Irish dialect really made me trip up a few times while trying to interpret what they were saying. I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did.
This is the third mystery by Tana French, each one focusing on a different member of the murder and undercover teams near and in Dublin. I wasn't too excited when I heard the third book would be about Frank Mackey (undercover), but I thought I'd give it a try anyway. Wow! It is just great. Now I want 40 more books about Frank Mackey!
Over 20 years ago, the then 20 year old Frank is preparing to run away with his adored Rose. These two kids are from awful families and can only see a future for themselves if they run to England. Rose stands Frank up, and for 20 years, he believes she held his family in contempt and went without him.
But Frank gets a call from one of his sisters (except for her, he has been estranged from his family since that night 20 years ago). Rose's suitcase has been found. It appears she never left.
Frank returns to Faithful Place (their street's name), and must make peace with his feelings for Rose (and his long feelings of abandonment), his family, his place in the sceme of things.
As he tries to figure out what happened to Rose, we get much more than a mystery. We get one of the most beautifully written descriptions of a dysfunctional family I have ever run across. Frank's parents are so dreadful that they would be cartoonish in the hands of an author of lesser talent. As it is, we are just left aghast. We are debating in my family about the level of compassion they deserve (I feel sorry for them, actually) but, clearly, these are people without a lot of self insight and they spread misery and damage like nuclear fallout.
While I loved the solution in the end, I also loved each step of the journey towards it.
This will be one of the best books this year!
With The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest and its two prequels at the top of Amazon's bestseller list, I can't help but compare "Faithful Place" and say that Tana French's newest book is so beautifully written that it makes The Millennium Trilogy read like hack fiction. To fellow Stieg Larsson fans, I say look at it this way: this means that after you've finished the Millennium Trilogy you can discover a new masterful author of suspense, one who operates at a less frenetic pace.
All three of Tana French's books, In the Woods,The Likeness: A Novel, and "Faithful Place" are as enjoyable as literature as much as they are about suspense. "Faithful Place" is French's most heartfelt work yet. Frank Mackey left his old Dublin neighborhood Faithful Place two decades ago, cutting ties with his family. We follow Mackey back to his Mammy's stoop to investigate an incident that will tear open his most sensitive wounds. I read the book in a few voracious days, and finished about a week ago, and "Faithful Place" is still haunting me. Even if some aspects of the mystery were potentially guessable, the whole of the story is greater than the sum of its parts. French does not just get us to see the killer's point of view by obliterating "good" and "bad" with cheap moral relativism; rather, she thoroughly illuminates the psyches (and blind spots) of all the characters in a way that makes you see how the whole puzzle fits together by making you ask, what is the cost of seeing the truth?
I don't want to say more than that because I don't want to ruin this brilliant story for anyone. Be aware that some customer reviews here that say they contain spoilers *really* contain spoilers, to an extent I think is unwarranted. No one should spell out whodunit for a mystery in such a public forum that doesn't have any layers of protection from spoilers.
It's almost a travesty to summarize the plot of a Tana French novel because her characters, in all their facets, are so much a part of each plot, it is difficult to separate the story from the characters. Readers must be careful, too, with French, to remember she is a master at using the first person narrative to lure them into false impressions and dangerous assumptions. In French's "Faithful Place", family relationships, friendship, love, self-deception, rationalization, and the stong hold the past retains on its characters are as fascinating to read about as are the solutions to the crimes committed in the novel. All of these elements, even the most dramatic, ring true.
In French's "Faithful Place", the mesmerizing narrator is Francis "Frank" Mackey, an undercover policeman in Dublin. Divorced and trying to be a good father to his nine-year-old daughter, he is determined to keep her away from his parents and all but one of his siblings. But the discovery of the body of Rose Daly, his first true love, forces Frank to return to the neighborhood where his parents still live. He is inevitably ensnared by the family he has chosen to disown for 25 years, and he is inevitably drawn into a past that he never really escaped. Determined to find Rose's murderer, he travels along the unexpected, and sometimes unwelcome, paths that lead to the truth. Most readers will be compelled to accompany him on his journey.
on March 17, 2011
FAITHFUL PLACE is the third in a series of Dublin-based police procedurals by Tana French, following her Edgar-award winning debut IN THE WOODS and it's sequel THE LIKENESS. These novels are loosely connected, but each feature a different detective as hero and narrator.
Some advance reviews for FAITHFUL PLACE told me that this would be the best of the three novels. Whether or not you agree might depend on what you are looking for. The first two novels were more like Gothic thrillers just pretending to be police procedurals, which worked for me, particularly in the first one. FAITHFUL PLACE is aiming more towards realism, doesn't break as many genre "rules", and comes closest to being a typical police procedural. But I don't like it.
The plot (see editorial review above) has some common themes with French's first novel IN THE WOODS: The divided identity of the detective (Frank/Frances Mackey, Adam/Robert Ryan), the twin mysteries set two decades apart, the exploration of history and place and their effect on character. Except that this time our hero doesn't come across as a genuine psychological case, just a self-serving bully playing victim to justify himself. Okay, at least it's different.
But not different enough. Frank is supposed to be a born-and-bred Dubliner and all-around man's man, but he sounds FAR too similar to the aforementioned Ryan -- an effete English boarding school graduate and all-around snob. In fact, all three of French's detectives so far have the same unpleasant qualities: Snobbery towards country people, contempt for innocence, and quasi-sadistic pleasure in manipulating people. Not to mention the selfish unprofessionalism, obsessive tendencies, arrested-juvenile behavior, and moral hypocrisy. And in the case of the male detectives, the same rhapsodizing about how the sun shines out of some female's every pore -- in this case Rosie Daley's. I could have killed the poor girl myself, I got so sick of it.
I actually really "liked" these annoying qualities in Ryan, but find them more genuinely obnoxious each time they are repeated in a different character. Frank claims to be the enemy of shallow consumer values, but still describes everything via pop-cultural references. Meanwhile, his sneering attitude towards "boggers" -- which IS in character -- is nonetheless really starting to turn my stomach. Actually, Frank has a sneering attitude towards everybody, which gets exhausting to read after a bit. But despite his veneer of tough-guy vulgarity, he still keeps lapsing into women's-romance-novel gush -- sometimes out loud in front of other men, who mysteriously allow him to get away with it. French deserves points for making each each of her narrator-detectives indulge in police brutality in a completely unique and distinctive way. But I'm still starting to seriously worry about her range.
Frank fails to run afoul of any real-or-imagined ghosts, pookas, banshees, barrow wights, or anything else that might spice up his selfish, spiteful existence. A passage towards the end suggests maybe French did this to make a point, which is interesting. But that still leaves us an ugly story without a lot of plausibility to justify it and no Mystery or Grace to redeem it. I won't get into spoilers, but in SO many little ways the story here does not QUITE ring quite true, and the characters don't QUITE behave plausibly, and every occurance is just a LITTLE bit forced and ridiculous. I preferred it when French handed you a blatantly improbable "Oh-please-you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me" scenario, and then hinted that maybe the Old Gods were lurking about messing with the characters. It gave you someone to root for, anyway.
Once again, French leaves important matters ambiguous. There are no significant cameos from earlier books, other than Cooper the pathologist, though there are several allusions to minor characters such as O'Kelly. The only part I really enjoyed was the cliche-spouting Murder detective "Scorcher" Kennedy. There is also some behind-the-scenes sculduggery amongst the detectives, which may or may not play into future novels.
on August 22, 2010
The first two books by this author were great. I was really extremely excited that there was a new one, and immediately snapped it up. Wow - what a disappointment. The entire plot hinges on the events of a single night twenty years ago. This night is rehashed about fifteen times over the course of the book, by different characters - all who have pretty much the same impression of it. All of this recollection happens in dialogue - there's very little action. People are able to recall minor events from two decades ago with a clarity that makes no sense. Quick, what were you wearing on the night of July 19, 1988? What did you have for dinner? That, combined with the narrator's frequent five-page long conversations with his 9-year old daughter (oh, guess what? The author has a little girl, too!) made it a real snore.