Maggie O’Farrell never fails in delivering novels about daily human tribulations. What happens to her main characters might happen to you and me. Main characters Daniel and Claudette fall in and out of love, their marriage has ups and downs, family members die, others cannot conceive children and have got to go through the process of adoption, it is what happens in an ordinary life. The most exceptional about This Must Be The Place is the fact that Claudette is a self-chosen recluse, a former famous actress who prefers life in Donegal over a life of fame and glamour. The novel is not told linearly, O’Farrell skips through time having main characters and even casual encounters tell how Daniel and Claudette came to fare as they did. In one chapter the auctioned possessions of Claudette tell the tale of her becoming a famous actrice. This set-up works, because it allows O’Farrell to look into the lives of Daniel of Claudette at various moments in times as seen by different people. It is only at the end that I felt that she had been stretching it too far, that she should have come to a conclusion sooner. The set-up started to come over as a trick, never a good thing.
As far as I am concerned O’Farrell shines in describing emotions: demure and using the correct words. O’Farrell never becomes corny. In This Must Be The Place she has sister-in-law Maeve describe her emotions on not being able to conceive, on finally feeling that her adopted daughter is hers. She chooses words that make you feel she is saying what you might have wanted to say, just better. This also goes for the chapters in which Daniel is dealing with the murder of his daughter Phoebe. Though the subject is tough, O’Farrell turns it into exquisite writing. O’Farrell excels in the small recognizable gestures. Her talent for choosing the right words make for honest emotion, never for tackiness. It is why I keep on reading her novels, because I know I will be delighted with her delicate way of putting things.