This Must Be The Place, by Maggie O'Farrell

A story that jumps forward and backward in time and from place to place and is always engaging and readable. One of the main characters was a film star who'd disappeared from public view and taken up to living somewhere remote in Scotland - she encounters someone at the start of the book who doesn't recognise who she is, and their stories spiral outwards.

There was some lovely writing in here, e.g.

In the hallway, as she walked ahead of him towards the door, he watched the soles of her bare feet, revealing and concealing themselves to and from him, in turn, over and over. He caught hold, briefly, of what it would be like to live in this house, with her as your girlfriend, your wife. Just for a moment, he could feel it, that life, as closely as something you might wear: these rooms, those yellow oblongs of light thrown along the floor, that pool there waiting for you in the morning, the murmur and chatter of the sprinklers outside, the restless stirring of the trees, the drone of the mower and her, turning towards you, one of her braids escaping its pins, holding her hand to you at the open door.

She borrowed a bit from herself in this book when she describes I feel inside the pockets of my jacket, my palms sliding along the silky, slippery lining, but I noticed that mainly because I thought it was such a nice description the first time. And talking of clothes, I learned a new word after she describes someone as smoothing the placket of her shirt.

She describes Ari and I have a long tradition, a stupid joke, that if we see each other from far off, we will wave theatrically and expansively until we are right up close, pretending that we haven't grasped that the other person has seen us which I do with Ella.

I very much enjoyed reading this book; it really envelopes you. But after I finished it I had a couple of doubts about it: the way the sections were ordered so that you jumped around in time and place did make it more intriguing, and you did have "aha" moments as things fell into place. But I'm not sure whether there was any justification for doing this apart from to make the reader work harder. And the other thing was that the chapters had names which, while sounding charming and intriguing ("Enough Blue to Make", "Down at the Bottom of the Page", "How a Locksmith Must Feel"), didn't - so far as I could see - have anything to do with their contents. But maybe I just missed the connections.

I'll definitely read it again, so maybe next time I'll come to a different conclusion about whether the style was just affectation.

Completed : 29-May-2017

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