With her seventh novel, This Must Be The Place, Maggie O’Farrell quickly and skilfully wraps you up in story and takes you on an emotional journey through place and time. This novel is wide in scope and ambition, a story of and for our times, but it’s also forensic in its detail, focusing in on one modern family, and ultimately, two people and one marriage. Here’s what it’s about:
Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex-film star given to shooting at anyone who ventures up their driveway.
He is also about to find out something about a woman he lost touch with twenty years ago, and this discovery will send him off-course, far away from wife and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?
This Must Be The Place very much feels like a story for my generation, where relationships and marriages no longer have to last or can, where both partners have their own careers or feel they can explore other options, where families are no longer nuclear and living in the same area that their parents and grandparents before them live(d) but which are the product of present and former relationships and scattered around the globe.
This Must Be The Place is a novel about finding home in such a fragmented world, of finding home not just in a place, but in another person or another family. It looks at how random life (and death) can be; how people play with and manipulate others’ emotions; about missed opportunities and second chances; how we run to and away from people, events and places, but how they never really leave us; at the different ways in which we cope with this and how sometimes we don’t cope at all, but instead carry around a backpack of guilt with us, as Daniel does. And with the character of Claudette, we get a fascinating look at the dark side of celebrity: how it must be to live in the glare of the camera lens, and what one woman will do to step away from all of that in order to find some peace for herself, some semblance of normal life. Read more