Article published on April 15, 2016.
Having been a long-time fan of Maggie O’Farrell I was delighted, of course, to get my hands on an early copy of new novel This Must Be the Place, particularly as I’d also secured myself a place at the Rooftop Book Club event at the offices of her publisher Headline where she was to be interviewed by journalist Hannah Beckerman, along with Monica Wood (author of The One-in-a-Million Boy). I found myself there on a cold rainy evening in early February surrounded by many other eager Maggie fans debating their favourite of her previous novels (the general consensus? The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – although mine is The Hand That First Held Mine).
Her draw was obvious to us all – this author has a knack of getting into people’s heads, not only those of her characters but her readers. In This Must Be the Place she guides us through a marriage, mainly, between Daniel and Claudette but in doing so she also reveals the complicated inner lives of a range of people they have touched and moved and affected before and during their time together. Jumping about in time and place it was only at the end that I fully absorbed the impact and ambition of this approach – she has craftily recreated the state of flux that we are all in, all the time, as we live with our memories and the consequences of our decisions, continually negotiating our way through life and relationships.
Clever and insightful as always, this novel seems, to me at least, to mark a step change in her literary aspirations and I suspect this is set to continue. With shades of Anne Tyler and Rachel Cusk’s Outline, This Must Be the Place will surely win Maggie O’Farrell a legion of new fans to join the countless already converted.
‘It was a liberating book to write. My book is a parallel to a life with restrictions. Fiction allows me to throw them off.’
‘It felt like removing a corset.’
which might give you an idea of the fun she must have had putting this novel together. Young children and a husband who is also a writer possibly don’t make for the most conducive writing companions but, as she explained,
‘All books are written against impossible odds. If you want to do it, you’ll do it.’
– Mel Mitchell, Feb. 2016
This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell, published by Tinder Press on 17 May, 2016 in hardback at £18.99
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