Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Maggie O'Farrell, 'This Must Be The Place': a gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover

This is an accomplished work, and is the story of a man, Daniel Sullivan, a New Yorker who is a linguistics professor living in the wilds of Ireland, and his relationship, mainly, with his second wife Claudette. There is a shifting cast of other characters, and notably of children and adolescents. It is stupendously atmospheric in places, although a bit annoying as it jumps around in time and place, and, particularly if you put it down for a day or so, you have to remind yourself what time and place you are currently in. Two of the female characters, Teresa and Rosalind, are under-used, so that I wondered why they were even there. Some are dismissed too glibly "Maeve always did as she was told", and the second wife, reclusive ex-actor Claudette, becomes more and more perfect as the story goes on, so that I wanted to mess up her perfect face, or for her to actually do something WRONG for once. Also, the total recluse business - Claudette lives in a remote place and no one knows where she is; she also has a demonic Max von Sydow-like Swedish ex-lover who is her nemesis - would never have worked. Those people always have People, who Know Their Secrets. A tour de force, this, but I'm not sure I actually liked it all that much. And there are gaps in the story, but I can't even be bothered to go through it and identify them. I can though forgive a writer a lot if they quote, and use as a conceit, F. Scott Fitzgerald's "gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover".

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