Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must Be the Place – A Rich Supporting Cast

o'farrellIn Farrell’s seventh novel we circle around Daniel’s and Claudette’s stories, slowly working through the layers of their lives in order to arrive at a clear sense of their marriage, if such a thing is possible. The chapters, offering perspectives from different characters, don’t follow an obvious chronology and the effect is that of a slow reveal, a piecing together of the narrative strands. Daniel is a lecturer, Claudette a long-vanished film star who shuns the limelight and has chosen to hide away in Ireland on a property with twelve gates to keep out the curious. For me, she remains a deliberately shadowy creature, a construction documented in fragments, some of which make up the Auction Catalogue five chapters in. As protagonists, I sometimes found Claudette and Daniel hard to like, indeed, hard to ‘see’ at times. It was the panoply of supporting characters who made me love the novel they all inhabit, however briefly in some cases.  In many ways this is a novel of missed chances , unspoken desires, and things lost, particularly for the women. Daniel’s mother experiences a chaste and enduring passion for another man. Nicola, a vital but vulnerable former lover of Daniel’s, deserves her own novel, as does Rosalind, a sixty-eight year old woman who’s travelling the world alone for the first time after the break up of a long marriage. She meets Daniel on a expedition to the Bolivian salt desert and she’s probably my favourite character of all  – she’s reveling in her new independence after years of marriage and unspoken grief for her three miscarried babies, and she provides the novel with one of its key observations: ‘I have a theory,’ she says, looking far ahead, at where salt meets sky, ‘that marriages end not because of something you did say but because of something you didn’t.’  And this is at the heart of the novel – that which is unsaid and the consequences therein.  O’Farrell leaves us with what is hopefully a teaser for Rosalind’s own book. When asked about her own plans, ‘that,’ she says, as the truck’s engine starts beneath them, ‘is another story.’ I really do hope so.


2 thoughts on “Maggie O’Farrell’s This Must Be the Place – A Rich Supporting Cast

  1. Pingback: Five ‘significant’ reads in my life | Books and Wine Gums

  2. Pingback: Blogging – the first eight months, or ‘What I’ve learned So Far…’ | Books and Wine Gums

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