Friday, 5 May 2017

Book Review: This must be the place - M. O'Farrell

“Claudette looks down at the thing in her hand. She turns it one way and the other. It is a packet of Italian coffee, half used, left behind. Innocuous enough in itself but in Claudette’s hands, this particular morning, it is as dangerous as cyanide.She isn’t going to sniff it, no, she isn’t. She wouldn’t be stupid enough to attempt such a thing. Just a whiff of those smoky, dark, aromatic granules – heated up they always were, at length, lovingly, every morning in this kitchen, for all the years he lived here, the way he would stand waiting for them to brew, looking out of that window, that robe of his loose over his pyjamas, a child, usually, on his shoulder or his arm – would be enough to tip her over the edge. She isn’t going to do it. Certainly not. Then she does, of course. She removes the clip, she places it on the counter, she parts the top of the silver-and-red packet and she brings it to her face and she inhales, she inhales, she inhales.” 

I will start saying that I loved this novel! i finished it last night and it is one of those books which you carry in your mind even when you are not reading it and after finishing it.
I loved O'Farrell's writing style, the way she "played" with the structure of the book, all the characters none excluded and the deepness of the love and solitude and consciousness of self in the novel.
I read a couple of books from the some author before, I loved one - The hand that held mine - and didn't really care for the other one - Instructions for a heatwave. But I really liked the idea of this latest book's plot and I have to say I am really glad I read it.
All the chapters in the novel are narrated by different people in different years, telling parts of the same story as they all are interlinked. But, even if there are quite a number of characters, it is not confusing at all and the story flows smoothly chapter after chapter.
The undiscussed central characters in the novel are Daniel and Claudette, husband and wife, but also father and mother, professor and actress, students, American and French, depending on the period of their story. They both are, as all the others in the book, so well described and complex that you feel, mid read, you have known them personally for a long time, you wish to talk to them, live with them in their isolated Irish getaway. And, as normal humans, they have their (big) weaknesses too, they do things they are not proud of, they are subject to loss, sorrow, despair, but also are gifted which great traits, love, good brains, a great family. 
This must be the place is a book about marriage and parenthood, but also about facing your own self and being coherent with yourself. The characters make some important choices throughout their lives, some right ones, some that will turn out the wrong ones, and yet they take responsibility for them and face the consequences, whatever these might be. 
The novel is also a masterpiece of writing style, in my view, it uses a number of words that you do not find in your average contemporary literature and it is very refreshing to read such a rich, yet never boring, prose. 
In summary I highly recommend This must be the place, definitely the best book I have read in April and one of the best read this year so far.  I will surely read other novels by Maggie O'Farrell.

"The problem is, she thinks, as she comes to a standstill beside a peaked stalagmite of salt (like a sculpture or a vase, perhaps) that she doesn't know where to be. How to live. Where to put herself. She is English, she sounds English, her passport is English, all her relatives are English. And yet she hasn't lived in England for at least half of her life. She has been moored here, in South America, for so long that she thinks in Spanish, she dreams in Spanish, she pictures the globe oriented so that the dagger shape if South America stabs proudly down the middle, Europe, Africa and Australasia somewhere off at the periphery."

Overall rating: 8.5   Plot: 8   Writing style: 9    Cover: 6.5

Title:This must be the place
Author: Maggie O'Farrell
Publisher: Tinder Press
Pages: 496
Publication year: 2016

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?

The Author:
Maggie O'Farrell (born 1972, Coleraine Northern Ireland) is a Northern Irish author of contemporary fiction, who features in Waterstones25 Authors for the Future[1] It is possible to identify several common themes in her novels – the relationship between sisters is one, another is loss and the psychological impact of those losses on the lives of her characters. O'Farrell won the 2010 Costa novel award on 4 January 2010 for her novel, The Hand That First Held Mine.[2]

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