This Must Be The Place
by Maggie O’Farrell
A reclusive ex-film star living in the wilds of Ireland, Claudette Wells is a woman whose first instinct, when a stranger approaches her home, is to reach for her shotgun. Why is she so fiercely protective of her family, and what made her walk out of her cinematic career when she had the whole world at her feet?
Her husband Daniel, reeling from a discovery about a woman he last saw twenty years ago, is about to make an exit of his own. It is a journey that will send him off-course, far away from the life he and Claudette have made together. Will their love for one another be enough to bring Daniel back home?
Browsing the hotel library, I was drawn to Maggie O’Farrell‘s “This Must Be The Place” because of its cover. The blurb promises a magnificent tale of an extraordinary marriage and the cover art of gold lettering, maps and travel documents was hard to resist.
This book is less travel-y than its cover suggests and is more family and relationship based. Set over varying times and locations and told from varying perspectives, we follow the story of flawed American Daniel and his eccentric ex-actress wife Claudette while being introduced to someone new in most chapters.
With this non-linear style, I felt as thought there were too many characters, too many plot points and too many story lines to keep up with. Some chapters seemed redundant, some characters too. At times I felt I needed more information or detail about a character, Daniel’s daughter Pheobe for instance, but instead we were introduced to yet another member of this story. Rosalind, for example, was used to give some excellent advice to Daniel in a time of need, but I’m not sure we required her backstory or that she warranted a whole chapter to herself. Sadly I feel that this style made the book a little long winded, slightly too long and drawn out and with some chapters spanning more than 30 pages each I found myself willing some of them to end.
There were also some odd sections where characters didn’t really know who or where they were. Daniel was an alcoholic so I get that, but I’m not sure why the other characters went through this. Perhaps it was symbolic and I missed the point?
“Have I been asleep? Was I sleeping? Where am I and what am I doing here?”
But despite this, there were some parts where I thoroughly enjoyed this book, mainly in Daniel and Claudette’s chapters. These characters are real, they are honest and they are flawed. “This Must Be The Place” is very well written and O’Farrell did a great job of examining their marriage, sacrifices which had to be made and the strains it was put under. I enjoyed this style of writing and would be interested to explore this author further.
Overall rating: An enjoyable story of a couple set over a number of different times, locations and told through a large range of characters. Well written and detailed but a little long and a few too many view points for me to keep up with. I’m scoring “This Must Be The Place” 3 stars.
See my other reviews of books by Maggie O’Farrell here: