By MICHELLE SCOTT
Maggie O Farrell – This must be the Place. (Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2016).
This was our book club choice for January on the basis we had read an earlier novel by the same author called “The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox” which we had all found very thought provoking.
This Must be the Place touches upon many weighty themes such as infidelity, bereavement, infertility, guilt and alcoholism and of the love people have for each other; both as husband and wife and parent and child.
There are two main characters – Daniel, who comes across initially as someone who is very likeable but then we learn how his past has dramatically shaped him and how his issues with drugs and alcohol nearly cost him everything he holds dear to him, and his wife Claudette, who had a very famous past from which she ran away to live a new life as a recluse. The book focuses on Daniel and how his life is interweaved with the other characters but each one, specifically Claudette, bears a huge impact on the outcomes and decisions he makes in his life.
The story is told through a different character every chapter and some of our book club members didn’t like the fact the story jumped about from one year to another and from a different setting each time, although personally I found this maintained interest and made me wait for the final pieces of the puzzle to slot together to complete the picture. The way in which the book was written was just as complex as the relationships within it, but it could be argued this reflects real life. In reality, love is extremely complicated and perhaps the author wrote in this way to mirror the relationships she was writing about.
The author has a wonderfully descriptive style and her words instantly evoke the Irish and American landscapes in this story of two people’s lives, the twists and turns it takes, the love they have for each other and for their children and how the previous decisions made in their earlier lives impact upon their present and future.
I really enjoyed this book and found it very easy and refreshing to read but the views of our book club were quite divided, especially over the ending, so I will leave you to make up your own mind…