Daniel Sullivan has not been good to his women, starting with his college girlfriend and ending with his current wife. He doesn’t know a good thing when it’s staring him in the face. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell, author of Instructions for a Heatwave, is primarily his story.
O’Farrell uses time skipping to show current and past circumstances of both Daniel’s and his current wife, reclusive former film star Claudette Wells’ relationships to their parents, spouses, siblings, etc.
The locales shift among Donegal, Ireland (where he and Claudette live), Brooklyn (where his parents live), Los Angeles (where his ex-wife and children live) and England (where he went to college). The story begins with Daniel traveling back to Brooklyn for his father’s funeral, a father he never really got along with. On the spur of the moment, he diverts his travels to Los Angeles to see the children he hasn’t seen in ten years, initially because his ex-wife wouldn’t allow it and later because of the distance separating them. His travels then take him to England in search of answers to a question plaguing him about a former girlfriend–much to Claudette’s dismay. This was a pivotal point in their relationship.
This Must Be the Place is all about relationships; Daniel’s with girlfriends, spouses, friends, family and Claudette’s with her former lover, her brother and Daniel.
One very disconcerting technique O’Farrell uses is the “…little did he/she know that such and such happens to this particular character later on…”, supposedly making the current action more meaningful. I just found it annoying.
I liked Claudette, Daniel not so much, their respective children somewhat interesting. I can’t say that I loved. This Must Be the Place, but I did finish it (predictable ending) so that must mean something. I guess my problem was that not liking Daniel made it difficult to want to know what happens to him. Juxtaposing that, liking Claudette made me want to finish the book…which I guess ultimately won out.
To conclude, having really liked Instructions for a Heatwave, I found This Must Be the Place somewhat disappointing.