This Must Be The Place
Maggie O’farrell ( Tinder Press, £18.99)
This accomplished new novel from award-winning writer maggie o’farrell is the compelling story of daniel and Claudette. We meet the couple in 2010, in their home in donegal, where daniel is persuading himself that a man hiding in the trees with camera and binoculars is just a birdwatcher, when Claudette appears, baby on her back, and fires a shotgun into the air: ‘ha, that’ll show him.’
Claudette is immediately, captivatingly mysterious: a former film star and now a recluse, who will stop at nothing to protect her hiding place. meanwhile, miss o’farrell points us towards daniel’s equally intriguing story when she shows him to be profoundly affected by certain chance encounters.
These inspire him to root into the messy unknowns of his past, asking difficult questions, confronting mistakes and risking everything he has to regain something from the losses that haunt him. six years later, he will reflect: ‘how different it all might have been, how miniscule the causes and how devastating their effects.’
With each new chapter, the author deftly alters the narrative voice as she turns to a different character, time and place linked to daniel and Claudette’s story, such as daniel’s mother in Brooklyn, 1944; Claudette’s brother in Cumbria, 1995; and even an apparent stranger, Rosalind, in Bolivia, 2015. it’s a leap into a more experimental style for miss o’farrell and — thanks to her skill as a storyteller, her nuanced insight into character and her eye for revealing detail—it’s a triumph.
her structure demonstrates how an individual’s story is inescapably intertwined with the paths of others, how the world is ‘incorrigibly plural’, as she points out in her epigraph from Louis macNeice. each chapter is individually poignant; cumulatively, as the story of daniel and Claudette is pieced together, they yield immense richness and depth. Emily Rhodes