Book Review: ‘This Must Be The Place’ By Maggie O’Farrell

Daniel Sullivan lives in Donegal with his slightly eccentric wife, Claudette, and their two children Marithe and Calvin. He has a complicated life, with children he never sees in California and a family he barely speaks to in Brooklyn.

But he’s managing to keep everything calm, even though his wife attempts to shoot anyone who passes by their gates.

That is, until he hears a voice on the radio that brings up memories from his past that he had long forgotten. He starts to ask questions that take him away from his home and his life with Claudette.

Are the secrets he has been keeping from Claudette worth uncovering or will they ruin everything he holds dear?

This Must Be The Place is an intimate portrait of a couple and the ways in which their past has a hold on their future. O’Farrell has a knack for writing about real, believable relationships, and Daniel and Claudette’s is no different. They are two flawed people trying to find a way to make their marriage work. They are trying to stay together against the odds of Daniel’s self-destruction, and Claudette’s stubbornness.

But no matter what they do, you always root for them. You’re desperate for it to work out for them because, despite their flaws and mistakes, you like them as people. You want to see them happy.

The book spans decades and continents and is told from multiple different perspectives- Daniel’s, Claudette’s, their children’s, Claudette’s brother, Daniel’s mother, and a lot more. Some of the characters appear only once and others many times. It sometimes takes a few paragraphs into a chapter to figure out who the person is and what connection they have to the story.

In all honesty, the way this book is written should be confusing and annoying.

But it’s not.

O’Farrell’s writing is so careful and exquisite that everything weaves together naturally. There’s nothing jarring about the jump from timelines and countries. And even though the characters seem a bit random at first, they all connect to the main story-line easily.

Each narrative gives a different perspective on Daniel and Claudette’s relationship, making you more sympathetic to them. And even though some are just peripheral characters that are only briefly mentioned, they are all well-formed and believable people with their own stories to tell and problems to overcome.

With This Must Be The Place, O’Farrell has created a world that you won’t want to leave, filled with characters that will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Her stunning prose and  well-rounded characters will have you turning the pages till the very end.