Gransnet forums

Books/book club

May book club - This Must Be the Place

(71 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 02-May-17 11:11:57

Copies of this should be landing on the doormats of the 50 winners very shortly. If you don't get one, why not buy or borrow a copy and join the conversation? More about the book here.

If you do get a free copy, don't forget you will need to add your thoughts and/or questions for Maggie O'Farrell on this thread before the end of May

adrisco Sat 27-May-17 17:43:08

I enjoyed this book and will now borrow all Maggie's other titles from library. Love "discovering" a new author!

Pittcity Mon 29-May-17 14:59:21

I have finally finished and it makes more sense.
I enjoyed the descriptive way the story was written and hope that there will be a happy ever after!
I really could've done with a post-it note plan though as I was reading to be able to piece the disjointed chapters together.

basketlady Mon 29-May-17 16:04:59

Thank you for my copy of Maggie O'Farrell's 'This must be the place'.I am familiar with her work,having read all her other books, and this one was very much true to form.Always convoluted and jumpy-about,her books switch constantly from generation to generation and place to place, and can be quite hard work.If anything, I found the storyline in this one easier to follow and the characters were well drawn, but I do get the feeling that Maggie O'Farrell writes for the love of writing and language but struggles with her plots sometimes.If you can be bothered, they are much better read a second time, but yes, I did enjoy it, and would recommend.

Harebell Mon 29-May-17 16:30:17

I enjoyed a previous novel by Maggie, 'After You'd Gone', and was very pleased to receive my copy of 'This Must be the Place'. I was not disappointed, I found it very easy to get into it from the first paragraphs and have to limit myself to putting it down after several chapters otherwise nothing else would get done! I like the way separate stories build up bringing in new characters all linked in some way, adding depth and twists to the tale as it develops. I also enjoy the links to different countries, particularly the Irish connection. Thank you.

cookiemonster66 Tue 30-May-17 17:23:42

Ive not finished it yet, but absolutely love the way and style it is written, just after the first paragraph I was hooked ie, there is a man at the door etc etc and that man is me. Wonderful! I am about half way through, the depth of characters is great just starting to get a tad confused with all the time jumping but hope all will beome clearer. Also some very powerful observations about parenting and relationships, sometimes quite hard hitting, even brought a tear to my eye and I had to have a pause to regain myself. Wonderful author and I am so glad I have the pleasure of reading the book as it is not my usual type of genre, so I would never have picked it off a shelf to buy it, many thanks!

Dannydog1 Wed 31-May-17 09:37:51

I have not finished this book as like many of the other reviewers I found it hard to keep track of the time and place, not helped by the way I do my reading, usually only in short 15 minute bursts. I will however finish it as I found the storyline and the characters appealing
My question forMaggie would be whether she deliberately tried to test the readers vocabulary- I found that Daniel frequently tested my vocabulary and I had to stop to look up the meaning of words, such as Eiresatz or orthogonal strabismus.

futuregran1 Wed 31-May-17 18:45:34

Thank you for sending me the book which I have enjoyed thoroughly. From the first page Maggie O'Farrell takes us on a journey with the characters. Each one is beautifully crafted and described and I could imagine them in their surroundings as I read the book. It's been a while since I read a book which I've enjoyed so much, so thank you Maggie O'Farrell for a brilliant read. It was the first O'Farrell I've read and I'll certainly try and read more of them.

There were many threads to the story, but if you read it carefully, you can see the way the characters are tied together.

Maggiemaybe Fri 02-Jun-17 00:47:26

I'm sorry, but I've struggled a bit with this book. I think it probably needs to be read in a couple of long sessions, and I haven't been able to commit to that this month. Trying to get into it by reading for 15 or 20 minutes at a time has been difficult, because of the constant switching about of characters and periods of time. I kept having to recap to work out who was who, and what point of the story I was at. I loved The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, and appreciate that the writing and language itself is as good in this book, but it's just a bit too disjointed for my liking. I look forward to trying more of the author's books though.

Nanalou Mon 05-Jun-17 22:16:12

Sorry it's taken so long to post this review but have only just finished reading it, as it took a number of attempts to get into it. I found this a 'hard read' a very disjointed storyline, I felt you never quite got to know each of the characters well enough.

NotTooOld Tue 06-Jun-17 16:39:29

Co-incidentally I have just read this book on my kindle and I'm relieved to see that many posters here feel the same as me - too many time and location changes so that I lost track of the story a good few times. In the end I got bored with trying to work out what was what and even who was who and just read the darned thing, not worrying about trying to follow the plot. Lots of people have mentioned a character called Rosalind whom I can't even remember. I only finished the book two days ago as well, so just shows how uninvolved with either plot or characters I was. Sorry, Maggie. I would have preferred this written as a 'straight' story. I have read other books of yours, though, and very much enjoyed them.

MaggieO'Farrell Tue 20-Jun-17 11:35:00


Mine arrived last week and it took over my weekend. When you get used to the skipping about hither and yon in time and place it is a page turner. I was going to give up as I became disconcerted by the time warps! However I persevered and am glad I did. What a journey with Claudette! Question for Maggie: what gave you the idea for the auction catalogue chapter? That is unique and such fun!! No spoilers here for the rest of you! I hope you enjoy it and don't give up, but continue to the end?

I';m so glad you liked it - it was enormous fun to produce. With this book, I had an urge to experiment with the form of the novel, to push its boundaries, to see what was possible within its remit. I knew I needed a chapter about Claudette's metamorphosis from an ordinary girl with an office job to a film star but I was wary of writing it: it felt like a story that I had read or watched too many times. I wanted to find a way in that was oblique, unusual. I began to think about what Claudette would discard when she exits her life, all the things that would be left in her house, and I realised that people would want them. Claudette is famous when she disappears and film fans would pay money for her things. With the memorabilia catalogue, I was asking what kind of narrative our possession tell about us?

MaggieO'Farrell Tue 20-Jun-17 11:54:09


Mine arrived a few days ago and I'm thrilled. Maggie O'Farrell is my favourite author. Are you likely to set one of your books in Northern Ireland Maggie? I know you come from NI, and it's where I live.

Thank you. I would love to set a book in Northern Ireland. I think I should probably visit again and collect some ideas.

MaggieO'Farrell Tue 20-Jun-17 11:55:33


I am going to be careful not to include spoilers in my review, as I can see that not many people have posted on this thread recently. It took a while for me to get into this book, because of the frequent changes in focus but as I got further into the story I enjoyed it more. I thought at first the story was going to be about Claudette, but actually I thought it was more about Daniel, and I wonder if the author would agree with me.
I liked the way the various threads were drawn together over time and how each part affected the whole. Half way through reading this I was at a family wedding and it made me reflect on how many stories contribute to our family story.
I also felt that the importance of our children was an important
highlight. I appreciated the author's notes at the end reflecting on how she had put the story together. I wasn't familiar with this author, but I will certainly look out for her other novels.

Good to hear that you got into the novel: I know I was asking a lot of the reader with the non-chronological structure but I always believe that readers are a lot cleverer than some writers think. You are right about Daniel - the book is more his story than Claudette's. He is the only character (besides, briefly, Phoebe) who gets to speak in the first-person singular; Claudette is a more private person so we don't get to see inside her head as much as we do with Daniel. The novel is an exploration of their marriage, what led up to it and why it goes wrong.

MaggieO'Farrell Tue 20-Jun-17 11:56:45


I have struggled with this book. I found the continuity a problem as I tried to keep track of what stage the characters were at and I thought it jumped around too much for easy reading.

I found Rosalind a bit pointless and we never got to the bottom of her character. The story seemed a little thin to me and,dare I say it,it got a bit boring and some chapters could have been pruned without affecting the narrative.

I'd like to ask Maggie if Claudette was modelled on anyone (Greta Garbo?) or is she a composite of spoiled filmstars?

I had the idea of writing about a reclusive actress several years ago, after witnessing a very famous Hollywood star pursued by the paparazzi in Soho, London. She and I ended up in a ladies's loo together and I've never forgotten her air of hunted, desperate misery. A novel about Claudette, a woman who escapes such a life to live in rural Ireland, came to me almost on the spot.

MaggieO'Farrell Tue 20-Jun-17 11:59:37


I absolutely loved this book. I love the way the characters and their stories are woven together and have already recommended to all my friends! I would like to ask Maggie whether the eczema storyline was based on her own experiences with her daughter (I read about this in an interview in the paper a while back) I'm assuming so - and if this is the case was it more painful or cathartic to commit to paper in the novel?

Very pleased to hear you enjoyed it. Niall's severe eczema is based on that of my daughter's. It's not often I write autobiographically – I prefer to make things up – but trying to take care of someone who suffers to that degree was preoccupying me so much that it inevitably made it into the novel. I like to think of Niall as the book's emotional centre. His condition is the literal embodiment of what all the characters feel at some point: namely, that their skin is unliveable, their current state is untenable. Writing the scene in the
dermatology clinic was one of the hardest things I've ever written, not because it was upsetting to write but because I had almost too much feeling, too much information at my disposal. It was the chapter in the book I wrote and rewrote the most. I kept showing it to my husband and he would return it with the same note in the margin: "Still too angry". I eventually rewrote it from Niall's point of view (it had originally been from Daniel's) and it all fell into place. I read parts of it aloud to my daughter, to check whether it felt accurate. She listened very carefully and instructed me: "You need to say it feels hot," she said, "that it burns."

MaggieO'Farrell Tue 20-Jun-17 12:01:13


I loved the book, and think Maggie O'Farrell is a brilliant story teller. I have now passed it on to my sister in law, who says she's enjoying it too. I'd like to ask Maggie if she's working on a new book, and if so, when can we expect it.

I have a memoir coming out at the end of August, called "I am, I am, I am:
Seventeen Brushes with Death". I have made a tentative start on another
novel. I can't tell you what a relief it is to return to fiction, after my brief foray
into non-fiction.

MaggieO'Farrell Tue 20-Jun-17 12:03:15


It took me a while to get used to the style, with all the time jumps, but I think it was very cleverly put together. I enjoyed it very much once I'd adjusted to the different time spans. I agree with another poster who felt the story was more about Daniel than Claudette, and of his life battles. Some readers felt that the character Rosalind was a bit superfluous, but to me, she was another cog in helping Daniel to move forward with his life and help him realise, in part, what he needed to do to sort things out.
I want to ask Maggie if she has any plans to develop the character of Rosalind in another story at some point, because I think she has a very interesting story of her own to tell. To me, she is there almost as a carrot to dangle to the reader - "will she, won't she have her own story to tell?" I rather hope so!
I'm so glad I persevered with this book, and I will look out for more of Maggie's books.

I am very fond of the character of Rosalind; she was someone I particularly enjoyed inhabiting. I don't have any plans at present for her but you never know...

MaggieO'Farrell Tue 20-Jun-17 12:05:10


I have enjoyed the storytelling in this book. There are great descriptions and strong characters. Like other Gransnetters, I found the jumps around in time very difficult to follow and this didn't make me want to carry on reading at the expense of leaving the gardening and housework, like a good book usually does. It has taken me a long time to read through as far as half-way. I will persevere and finish the story but I do feel that it's hard work and would have prefered to read it in chronological order, looking forward to what might happen next. It has affected my thoughts about recommending 'This Must be the Place' to anyone. I'd like to ask Maggie what influenced her decision to write in this style.

Apologies for dragging you all over the place with this book. I wanted to write in a way that reflected human memory. I created a structure that mirrored the manner in which we are made. I don't believe that we arrange our thoughts neatly and chronologically; experience doesn't file itself like that. It's more organic or chaotic or nuanced. We remember something and right away our minds leap to an associated thought or recollection: it might be something that happened a lifetime ago or even to someone else. There is no method in it.

MaggieO'Farrell Tue 20-Jun-17 12:09:29


This is my first Maggie O’Farrell novel but it won’t be my last. Thank you, Gransnet, for introducing me to her work. Right from the introduction, I was hooked: "There is a man..........There is a man and the man is me." What a great way to start a novel: so simple, yet so precise.
For those who like their stories delivered in linear fashion, the structure of the novel may be off putting, as some have already commented. So many characters, so many countries, so many time zones. The first chapter is set in Donegal, 2010, the next in London, 1989, later Brooklyn, 1944. The characterisations are excellent. Daniel certainly has his faults but he remains a sympathetic figure for the most part. Claudette is a little more elusive perhaps, although never less than fascinating. There is a wide cast of supporting characters who are all memorable and convincingly drawn. I did start to feel as if I should be taking notes. I would just get used to one character and then the next chapter would be from another character’s point of view but as the story built I went with it and found that for me it worked, incredibly well.
To Maggie, my thanks for a good read flowers
I have two questions:
1.Did your toddler’s destruction of your post its have any impact on the final structure of the novel?
2.Why introduce the incidental character of Rosalind so late in the day? I read her as a sort of soothsayer, whose only task is to tell Daniel some home truths and provide a clear and impartial view. If that is the case, why the need for the detailed backstory?

1. Perhaps. The structure was already formed in my head. I think the need to rejustify and rearrange and remember all the structural decisions, after my daughter's input, made the novel stronger. It's not often you have to go back to basics at that point. Maybe I should let her loose on my plans every time.

2. I wrote an dissertation once about the roles of incidental figures in Medieval and Middle English literature. The knights would be off on their quest, focussed on whatever it was they thought they were seeking, and then a hermit or a maiden or a dwarf would appear, almost from nowhere, and whatever they said or did would direct the path of the knight, often to a place he had not expected. I've always been interested in the people we meet, perhaps only briefly, who unwittingly shape our lives. What's significant for me about Daniel and Rosalind's intersection is that neither of them know the extent or details of each other's sadness but that they both sense it. They both, in a way, help each other carry on. They will, of course,
never meet again but they have made an enormous difference to each other';s lives. I always felt that the Arthurian maidens and hermits deserved their own stories so Rosalind gets hers.

MaggieO'Farrell Tue 20-Jun-17 12:11:14


I have not finished this book as like many of the other reviewers I found it hard to keep track of the time and place, not helped by the way I do my reading, usually only in short 15 minute bursts. I will however finish it as I found the storyline and the characters appealing
My question forMaggie would be whether she deliberately tried to test the readers vocabulary- I found that Daniel frequently tested my vocabulary and I had to stop to look up the meaning of words, such as Eiresatz or orthogonal strabismus.

It wasn't so much as an attempt to test the reader in any way, just a faithful representation of how someone like Daniel – an academic, a linguist, a word-obsessive - would think. He loves words, he relishes and collects them. His narrative would inevitably require some more unusual ones. The phrase "orthogonal strabismus" I first came across in one of my favourite novels, Antony Burgess' Earthly Powers, and I remember having to look it up then. I shamelessly borrowed it from him and put it into Daniel's mouth.