Book Review: This Must Be The Place

Sunday, 2 July 2017

This Must Be The Place is Maggie O'Farrell's seventh and most recent novel, but the first of hers that I have read. I'd had the hardback in my Amazon wishlist for months but I just had too many other things I needed to read first. As soon I was finished my current read and spotted the paperback for just £3.99 in Sainsbury's, I had to get it.

I have to admit, my heart sank a little when I realised it was one of those books that jumps around all over the place - different narrators, different places, different time zones. A book where you have to really engage your brain and work out where you are at the beginning of each chapter. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with books that use a split narrative. One of my all-time favourites is The Time Traveler's Wife - perhaps the biggest culprit - but I absolutely fell in love with the characters and their story so the jumping around only added to my enjoyment, rather than distracted.

Once I got over my initial reaction and dived in to the book with an open mind, I was sucked right in. The writing was incredible. Just one of those books that totally transports you with every word. Donegal, London, Brooklyn, could have been right there in each of these places, whatever the time-zone, such was the attention to detail and stunning story-telling.

Maggie O'Farrell somehow pulls together this orchestral story of two people's lives, loves and losses with several mini story-lines that are a triumph on their own. Each character's voice is different from the other and she totally nails each one, from the kooky ex-movie-star to the socially awkward eczema-ridden adolescent.

I felt so many emotions towards all of the characters in this brilliant book, but ultimately became very fond of them all for their many eccentricities and flaws. Even those characters who only featured for a fleeting few pages made a lasting impression.

There are many characters, times, places and levels to this book but ultimately, it is a love story about finding where and with whom you belong. If anything, the potentially whiplash-inducing structure only makes it all the more heart-warming and satisfying when we reach the finish and the main character finally realises he was right where he was meant to be all along.

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