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This Must Be the Place (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – May 16, 2017
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From Publishers Weekly
O'Farrell (The Vainishing Act of Esme Lennox) spins a magical story in her new novel. On the surface, the story is about the unlikely meeting of Daniel, an American, and Claudette, a French-English former actress; the life they make together; the lives they lived before that. and their struggle to hold things together in the face of a secret from Daniel's past. But this description, though accurate, doesn't convey the depth of perception and detail. O'Farrell offers not just backstory, but surround-story, using first-, second- and third-person points of view to depict Daniel and Claudette's children, Daniel's mother, Claudette's brother and his wife, an ex-lover or two, a former friend, a bewildered assistant, and a woman Daniel meets by chance in the Bolivian high plains (who has her own story of betrayal). Across the present and the recent and more distant pasts, in Donegal, Ireland; Brooklyn; London; Sussex, England; and points south and east, relationships start, end, and last. There is enough possibility and randomness for three books, yet the story never feels overstuffed, and when it ends, the reader is stunned and grateful, relieved that in the face of all that can go (and have gone) wrong, some things have come right. (July)\n --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Intensely absorbing. . . . O’Farrell writes novels in which you can happily lose yourself.” —NPR
“Compassionate. . . . Few contemporary writers equal Maggie O’Farrell’s gift for combining intricate, engrossing plots with full-bodied characterizations.” —The Washington Post
“Marvelous, a contemporary and highly readable experiment whose ambitious structure both enacts and illuminates its central concern: what links and separates our 21st-century selves as we love, betray, blunder and soldier on (and back) through time.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Extraordinary. . . . An engrossing novel . . . from a writer of impressive, perhaps masterly, skills.” —The Washington Times
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Although not an easy read this will be one of my all-time favorites. The story covers from 1944 through 2016 and each character, including peripheral characters, are assigned a chapter with the location and date. They are not in chronological order so it was a challenge for me but with some effort they all marvelously came together. It is primarily a story about the marriage of Daniel and Claudette. Daniel was a linguist and Claudette was a famous actress that all of a sudden disappeared some thinking that she was drown at sea with her son Ari. Daniel went to Ireland to collect the ashes of his grandfather and discovered Claudette’s whereabouts. Ari was “speech challenged” (had a severe stutter) and Claudette convinces Daniel to work with her son. The story takes to several different countries including Ireland, China, France, UK, US, Sweden and Bolivia. What makes this book stand out is the intellectual wordsmithing. I stopped several time to reread a page and ponder. Authors like Kate Atkinson and Maggie O’Farrell really enjoy throwing out a challenge when it comes to chronology. Loved it 5 stars
This story goes back and forth in time involving multiple characters from different places, but the most prominent is Daniel Sullivan. At the start of the book, Daniel is married to a beautiful and highly eccentric former actress named Claudette and they live in an isolated farmhouse somewhere in the Irish countryside. We learn how they met - in part because of Claudette's son's stuttering - and that Claudette is driving Daniel to the train station eventually on his way to Brooklyn to see his ailing (and despised) father.
Each chapter in this book is given a different title (we soon see its relevance) and a different time and location. It is through this technique that we learn about Daniel and Claudette's past - how she was once world-famous and how she disappeared from the public eye with her young son and moved into the remote Irish farmhouse. We learn abou Daniel's past - about his previous marraige and his two children, a young boy with severe excema and his beloved sister.
We also find out about a woman from Daniel's past named Nicola, and how that relationship and its resolution still haunt him.
There is so much more to the story than this, obviously, but I don't want to give more away because part of the enjoyment of this novel is finding out for yourself what new characters you will meet and how they are involved in Daniel or Claudette's life.
Because the story jumps around so much in time and place, I do strongly urge you to try to read this novel in one sitting or without too much time in between - there are several names to remember and often people mentioned earlier show up later in the book.
In can be tricky when a book has chapters that jump around in time like this, but it really works here. Each chapter is almost like a short story, and it is only at the end that we can put all the pieces together. It really is done so well.
This really is a marvelous novel. Maggie O'Farrell is one of my favorite authors and this book does not disappoint. My only criticism - and this is a slight one - is that I found Claudette's character the only one that didn't feel as real to me, and I had more problems identifying with her. But that is a mild critique.
This novel is good about second chances, getting and staying sober, and beginning again.