"A novel set in the wilds of Ireland. A reclusive French film star, her American linguist husband, and their exes, parents, siblings, and children from various marriages feature in a sophisticated story about love."
Stylistically, narratively and emotionally, This Must Be the Place is a tour de force, a complex and nuanced story leaping effortlessly across multiple characters, continents and time frames. And yet, at its heart, it is a story about people who are lost and about their troubled, flawed, deeply affecting attempts to reconnect with the people they love and the world around them ... The epicentre of the novel is a portrait of a marriage, so deftly painted by O’Farrell that the experience of reading it is, at times, quite devastating ... A rich cast of secondary characters populate the narrative, each chapter being told from a different point of view, and it is testament to the distinctiveness of the voices O’Farrell creates that she is able to move the reader seamlessly between them ... technically dazzling and deeply moving.
This Must Be the Place matches its predecessors for sheer reading pleasure and engagement ... O’Farrell expertly unravels the tangled threads that lead her protagonists to a wrenching confrontation that quite probably will destroy their marriage. This possibility is all the more painful because she has surrounded them with a richly colored supporting cast that would also suffer ... underscore[s] O’Farrell’s principal theme: the struggle to locate our true selves amid the disorderly mess of our lives.
The result, though not without its fault lines, is marvelous, a contemporary and highly readable experiment whose ambitious structure both enacts and illuminates its central concern: what links and separates our 21st-century selves as we love, betray, blunder and soldier on (and back) through time ... Some jumps didn’t entirely convince me. O’Farrell generally does an admirable job portraying people of different ages, genders, backgrounds and sensibilities from both sides of the Atlantic, but sometimes her supporting characters take up too much space or don’t feel sufficiently grounded in their own particularities ... O’Farrell lands us powerfully inside these charged meeting points, only to shatter them — and land, and shatter, and land again.