This Must Be the Place

9780385349420_p0_v2_s192x300   Where would you go if you wanted to disappear from the world?  If you are Maggie O’Farrell, of course you would go to Ireland.  In her new book – This Must Be the Place – O’Farrell creates a complicated saga of lives constantly being reinvented, and the turmoil of relationships.

Daniel Sullivan, an American linguistics professor, drives the action, across different wives, countries, children, and time zones.  As the story opens, Daniel is trying to recover from a bitter divorce which has kept him from seeing his two young children, Niall and Phoebe.  On a trip to Ireland to scatter his grandfather’s ashes, he serendipitously meets Claudette, a famous movie star in hiding with her young son, Ari.  Eventually, they marry and happily stay in hiding together in a remote area of Ireland for ten years – until, the next crisis in Daniel’s life.

If the plot seems formulaic, do not be deceived.  O’Farrell expertly weaves characters and motivations together, while keeping the reader off balance with the jumping of time zones and the introductions of new characters.  She cleverly draws the reader into what would seem to be an ordinary existence, then clobbers all expectations with revelations of the past in each character’s life.

The story is complicated but rewarding.  In This Must Be the Place, O’Farrell offers the possibilities of love offering understanding and relief from our own worst selves.

I need to read the book again, but knowing what happens will not spoil the anticipation of watching the interaction of all the characters, and, this time, I plan to revel in O’Farrell’s vivid descriptions of place and time.

Related Reviews:

The Quality of Silence

9781101903674_p0_v4_s192x300Rosamund Lupton’s newest suspense thriller – The Quality of Silence – had my undivided attention throughout the day.  Following a mother and her deaf daughter as they drove a ten ton rig in a fast-paced chase through the Arctic cold, I could not put the book down until I finished.  What a ride.

The story focuses on Ruby, a clever ten year old who was born deaf, and her mother, Yasmin, a beautiful astrophysicist, as they search for Matt, father and husband presumed to be dead in a lethal explosion at an Eskimo village.  Not willing to believe he is dead, the mother and daughter hitch a ride along the Dalton Highway in Alaska to the Arctic Circle to find him.  When the driver of the truck has a stroke, Yasmin takes the wheel to drive into a snowstorm and across narrow frozen rivers.  Afraid to leave Ruby to try to communicate with strangers, she takes her along, but when they realize they are being followed, the tension escalates.

Villains come from obvious as well as insidious sources.  Lupton uses the effects of fracking on the environment as the major villain in the story, with  sharp observations about its effects on the ecosystem, and the dire consequences for the environment in the future.  As a ten year old deaf child, Ruby feels excluded from friends at her mainstreamed school as she deals with silent bullies.  And, Yasmin worries that her wildlife documentary-maker husband, Matt, who has been working for months in the Arctic night, has betrayed her with an Inupiaq woman; his last email – “I kissed her because I missed you.”

Lupton cleverly uses Ruby’s young voice as a distraction from the terror, and grounds the story in the family dynamics.  Ruby’s optimism was often a welcome distraction from the nail-biting drama.

All ends well with the bad guys getting their due, thanks to Ruby and her tech savvy.  Once again, Lupton delivers  a satisfying and compelling tale.  All of Lupton’s books offer a thrilling ride, but this one was chilling.

I look forward to the next one.

Reviews of Other Lupton books:  

 

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

9780778319337_p0_v3_s192x300  A sweet distraction – The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick follows the quirky story of a widower who finds a charm bracelet hidden in a boot in his dead wife’s belongings.  Following the clues of each charm from an Indian elephant with a precious emerald, to a tiger from a nature preserve in Bath, and the thimble from a Parisian boutique, Arthur discovers more about his wife’s life than he had known.

Although both the language and the plot are contrived, you will find yourself cheering stodgy old Arthur (although he is only 69) as his odyssey takes him on adventures around the world in search of his dead wife’s true nature.  In the end, of course, he finds himself.

If you are a fan of life-changing stories of otherwise uneventful lives – like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – you will enjoy this new addition to the list.

Related Reviews:

Finding Winnie – 2016 Caldecott Award Winner

9780316324908_p0_v3_s192x300When you think of Winnie the Pooh, you may imagine the Disney character or the rumbling voice of Sterling Holloway, but Lindsay Mattick tells the real story of the bear in her 2016 Caldecott winning book – Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear.

Illustrated by Sophie Blackwell, the story evolves into two tales: first, the saving of Winnie the bear cub from a trapper and his stint as the mascot of Captain Harry’s World War I regiment; next, as the bear in the London Zoo who played with Christopher Robin Milne “right inside her enclosure,” inspiring the little boy to rename his stuffed bear after her. Christopher Robin’s father, Alan Milne made Winnie famous by writing about the adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Mattock adds an “Album” at the back of the book, sharing family photos and the excerpt in the 1914 diary, identifying the day when Harry met Winnie – August 24th.  A picture of Christopher Robin and the real Winnie at the London Zoo in 1925 is included.

Canadians from Winnipeg are reminded of the bear’s roots and his savior, a local veterinarian World War I soldier, Captain Harry Colebourn, with a statue in Assiniboine Park.  Mattick, a descendant of Harry tells his story to her young son, his namesake, as a bedtime tale.                                   

“Sometimes the best stories are {true}.”

img_4533

 

The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins

9780544639683_p0_v3_s192x300After reading Laura Holson’s New York Times article (..Beefcake Sells…), describing the motivation behind the covers of romance novels, the cover of Antonia Hodgson’s latest book – The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins – didn’t seem right.  Noted, the book is historical fiction as Hodgson goes to great lengths to document in her afterword, but the hero, Tom, is clearly ripped and lusty.  His bare chest on the cover might attract more readers, and the ripping bodice shenanigans in this story rival those in Catherine Coulter’s Regency romances.

Tom Hawkins returns from his debut in The Devil in the Marshalsea (see my review below) with a few familiar characters introduced in Hodgson’s first swashbuckling romance thriller.  This story has Tom on his way to be hanged for killing his neighbor, Joseph Burden, a horrible bully who tortures his children and rapes his housekeeper, while he is posing as a member of the “Society for the Reformation of Manners,” an eighteenth century group set up as a watchdog for English morals.  Who really killed Joseph Burden becomes a subplot in a tale of intrigue involving Queen Caroline and her husband’s mistress, Henrietta Howard.

According to Hodgson’s research, Howard’s husband was blackmailing the king to keep his mistress a secret.  When the king refused to pay, Howard threatened the queen, and eventually, struck a bargain.  Hodgson uses this obscure historical fact to weave a story around our hero, the rakish Tom Hawkins.  Asked to perform a favor for James Fleet, the “captain of the most powerful gang of thieves in St Giles,” Hawkins finds himself involved with Queen Caroline, who hires him to dispose of the troublesome husband of her lady-in-waiting, Henrietta Howard.   Things do not go according to plan, and Hawkins is telling his tale in his cell before he goes to the gallows – hoping for a last minute pardon from the Queen.  

The adventure is fast and furious, with historically correct descriptions of court intrigue, cock-fighting, brothels, executions, and female gladiators.

Review: The Devil in the Marshalsea