Recovering from an ugly divorce and custody battle by marrying a sexual icon who would escape her life of fame, Daniel is threatened by a secret from his past in a story told through his voice and the perspectives of those who have influenced his life. By the award-winning author of After You'd Gone.
MAGGIE O'FARRELL is the author of six previous novels, After You'd Gone; My Lover's Lover; The Distance Between Us, which won a Somerset Maugham Award; The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox; The Hand That First Held Mine, which won the Costa Novel Award; and Instructions for a Heatwave, which was short-listed for the Costa Novel Award. She lives in Edinburgh.
*Starred Review* Can two fragile individuals weave a life together when their fractured pasts threaten to unravel the tapestry of their marriage, thread by single thread? Daniel and Claudette Sullivan are tortured souls who find each other in one of the most remote villages of Ireland. The relationship is in danger of coming undone when a crime Daniel is sure he committed casts a looming shadow. For her part, Claudette is fleeing from celluloid fame and hiding from her ex-husband when she finds succor in her marriage to Daniel. O'Farrell (Instructions for a Heatwave, 2013) tells an enchanting story through the points of view of a sizable assortment of characters as the plot moves back and forth in time. The chorus of voices and the constant time-frame switching occasionally threaten the clarity of the narrative, but the flawless language ("My life has been a series of elisions, cover-ups, dropped stitches in knitting") and the attention to nuance override any flaws. One memorable chapter is devoted to a wedding in the Scottish countryside, a piece of writing so finely wrought, the novel is worth reading for this vignette alone. Even the slightly trite ending doesn't mar this compelling portrait of a marriage. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
A reclusive French film star, her American linguist husband, and their exes, parents, siblings, and children from various marriages feature in a sophisticated story about love. In an interlocking series of narratives set from 1944 to 2016, in places ranging from Sussex to Goa to Brooklyn, with titles like "The Tired Mind Is a Stovetop," "How a Locksmith Must Feel," and "When All the Tiny Lights Begin to Be Extinguished," British novelist O'Farrell (Instructions for A Heat Wave, 2013, etc.) unfolds the history of Daniel Sullivan and Claudette Wells. After being discovered in her early 20s by a Swedish film director, Claudette became an international icon and obsession on the most extreme scale possible-until the day she disappeared so completely she was assumed dead. Actually, she was hiding at a remote location in Donegal, where unhappy Berkeley professor Daniel, in Ireland to collect his grandfather's ashes, finds her broken down by the side of the road. From that lite ral and figurative intersection-as the title says, "this must be the place"-the story shoots out in many directions, past and future. Almost every character struggles with some burdensome disability-stuttering, eczema, anorexia, agoraphobia, infertility-and yet all have a magnetic star quality courtesy of O'Farrell's excellent characterizations. The scenario is glamorous, the writing is stylish, the globe-trotting almost dizzying, but there's a satisfying core of untempered feeling as well. Here's Daniel, reunited with Claudette after a separation: "I don't think our language contains a word with sufficient largesse or capacity to express the euphoria I feel as I bury my face in her hair....What redemption there is in being loved: we are always our best selves when loved by another." Or sister-in-law Maeve, upon picking up her adopted daughter in Chengdu, China: "If she was a liquid, she would drink her; if she was a gas, she would breather her in ; if she was a pill, she would down her; a dress, she would wear her; a plate, she would lick her clean." Juicy and cool, this could be O'Farrell's U.S. breakthrough book. Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
This Must Be the Place
The Strangest Feeling in My Legs
There is a man.
He's standing on the back step, rolling a cigarette. The day is typically unstable, the garden lush and shining, the branches weighty with still-falling rain.
There is a man and the man is me.
I am at the back door, tobacco tin in hand, and I am watching something in the trees, a figure, standing at the perimeter of the garden, where the aspens crowd in at the fence. Another man.
He's carrying a pair of binoculars and a camera.
A -bird-watcher, I am telling myself as I pull the frail paper along my tongue, you get them in these parts. But at the same time I'm thinking, -Really? -Bird-watching, this far up the valley? I'm also thinking, Where is my daughter, the baby, my wife? How quickly could I reach them, if I needed to?
My heart cranks into high gear, -thud-thudding against my ribs. I squint into the white sky. I am about to step out into the garden. I want the guy to know I've seen him, to see me seeing him. I want him to register my size, my former -track-and-field-star physique (slackening and loosening a little, these days, admittedly). I want him to run the odds, me versus him, through his head. He's not to know I've never been in a fight in my life and intend it to stay that way. I want him to feel what I used to feel before my father disciplined me: I am on to you, he would say, with a pointing finger, directed first at his chest, then mine.
I am on to you, I want to yell while I fumble to pocket my cigarette and lighter.
The guy is looking in the direction of the house. I see the tinder spark of sun on a lens and a movement of his arm that could be the brushing away of a hair across the forehead or the depression of a camera shutter.
Two things happen very fast. The dog-a whiskery, leggy, slightly arthritic wolfhound, usually given to sleeping by the stove- streaks out of the door, past my legs, and into the garden, emitting a volley of low barks, and a woman comes around the side of the house.
She has the baby on her back, she is wearing the kind of sou'wester hood usually sported by North Sea fishermen, and she is holding a shotgun.
She is also my wife.
The latter fact I still have trouble adjusting to, not only because the idea of this creature ever agreeing to marry me is highly improbable, but also because she pulls unexpected shit like this all the time.
"Jesus, honey," I gasp, and I am momentarily distracted by how shrill my voice is. "Unmanly" -doesn't cover it. I sound as if I'm admonishing her for an -ill-judged choice in soft furnishings or for wearing pumps that clash with her purse.
She ignores my high-pitched intervention-who can blame her?-and fires into the air. Once, twice.
If, like me, you've never heard a gun report at close range, let me tell you the noise is an ear shattering explosion. Magnesium-hued lights go off inside your head; your ears ring with the three-bar high note of an aria; your sinuses fill with tar.
The sound ricochets off the side of the house, off the flank of the mountain, then back again: a huge aural tennis ball bouncing about the valley. I realize that while I'm ducking, cringing, covering my head, the baby is strangely unmoved. He's still sucking his thumb, head leaning against the spread of his mother's hair. Almost as if he's used to this. Almost as if he's heard it all before.
I straighten up. I take my hands off my ears. Far away, a figure is sprinting through the undergrowth. My wife turns around. She cracks the gun in the crook of her arm. She whistles for the dog. "Ha," she says to me before she vanishes back around the side of the house. "That'll show him."
My wife, I should tell you, is crazy. Not in a requiring-medication-and-wards-and-men-in-white-coats sense although I sometimes wonder if there may have been times in her past-but in a subtle, more socially acceptable, less ostentatious way. She -doesn't think like other people. She believes that to pull a gun on someone lurking, in all likelihood entirely innocently, at our perimeter fence is not only permissible but indeed the right thing to do.
Here are the bare facts about the woman I married:
-She's crazy, as I might have mentioned.
-She's a recluse.
She's apparently willing to pull a gun on anyone threatening to uncover her hiding place.
I dart, insomuch as a man of my size can dart, through the house to catch her. I'm going to have this out with her. She can't keep a gun in a house where there are small children. She just can't.
I'm repeating this to myself as I pass through the house, planning to begin my protestations with it. But as I come through the front door, it's as if I'm entering another world. Instead of the gray drizzle at the back, a dazzling, primrose-tinted sun fills the front garden, which gleams and sparks as if hewn from jewels. My daughter is leaping over a rope that her mother is -turning. My wife who, just a moment ago, was a dark, forbidding figure with a gun, a long gray coat, and a hat like Death's hood, she has shucked off the sou'wester and transmogrified back to her usual incarnation. The baby is crawling on the grass, knees wet with rain, the bloom of an iris clutched in his fist, chattering to himself in a satisfied, guttural growl.
It's as if I've stepped into another time frame entirely, as if I'm in one of those folktales where you think you've been asleep for an hour or so, but you wake to find you've been away a lifetime, that all your loved ones and everything you've ever known are dead and gone. Did I -really just walk in from the other side of the house, or did I fall asleep for a hundred years?
I shake off this notion. The gun business needs to be dealt with right now. "Since when," I demand, "do we own a firearm?"
My wife raises her head and meets my eye with a challenging, flinty look, the skipping rope coming to a stop in her hand. "We don't," she says. "It's mine."
A typical parry from her. She appears to answer the question without answering it at all. She picks on the element that isn't the subject of the question. The essence of sidestepping.
I rally. I've had more than enough practice. "Since when do you own a firearm?"
She shrugs a shoulder, bare, I notice, and tanned to a soft gold, bisected by a thin white strap. I feel a momentary automatic mobilization deep inside my underwear-strange how this doesn't change with age for men, that we're all of us but a membrane away from our inner teenage selves-but I pull my attention back to the discussion. She's not going to get away with this.
"Since now," she says.
"What's a fire arm?" my daughter asks, splitting the word in two, her small, heart-shaped face tilted up to look at her mother.
"It's an Americanism," my wife says. "It means 'gun.' "
"Oh, the gun," says my sweet Marithe, six years old, equal parts pixie, angel, and sylph. She turns to me. "Father Christmas brought Donal a new one, so he said Maman could have his old one."
This utterance renders me, for a moment, speechless. Donal is an -ill-scented homunculus who farms the land farther down the valley. He-and his wife, I'd imagine-have what you might call a problem with anger management. Somewhat trigger-happy, Donal. He shoots everything on sight: squirrels, rabbits, foxes, -hill walkers (just kidding).
"What is going on?" I say. "You're keeping a firearm in the house and-"
" 'Gun,' Daddy. Say 'gun.' "
"-a gun, without telling me? Without discussing it with me? Don't you see how dangerous that is? What if one of the children-"
My wife turns, her hem swishing through the wet grass. "Isn't it nearly time to leave for your train?"