This Must Be the Place

This Must Be the Place

by Maggie O'Farrell
This Must Be the Place

This Must Be the Place

by Maggie O'Farrell


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An irresistible love story, an unforgettable family. The New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage Portrait and Hamnet captures an extraordinary marriage with insight and laugh-out-loud humor in what Richard Russo calls “her breakout book.”
Daniel Sullivan leads a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and his wife, Claudette, is a reclusive ex–film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Together, they have made an idyllic life in the country, but a secret from Daniel’s past threatens to destroy their meticulously constructed and fiercely protected home. Shot through with humor and wisdom, This Must Be the Place is an irresistible love story that crisscrosses continents and time zones as it captures an extraordinary marriage, and an unforgettable family, with wit and deep affection.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345804723
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/16/2017
Series: Vintage Contemporaries
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 52,919
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

About The Author
MAGGIE O'FARRELL was born in Northern Ireland in 1972. Her novels include Hamnet (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award), After You’d Gone, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, The Hand That First Held Mine (winner of the Costa Novel Award), and Instructions for a Heatwave. She has also written a memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death. She lives in Edinburgh.

Read an Excerpt

This Must Be the Place

Maggie O'Farrell

The Strangest Feeling in My Legs

Daniel Donegal, 2010

Excerpted from "This Must Be the Place"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Maggie O'Farrell.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

The Strangest Feeling in My Legs 3

I Am Not an Actress 35

Down at the Bottom of the Page 45

It's Really Very Simple 58

Auction Catalogue: Claudette Wells Memorabilia 75

How a Locksmith Must Feel 93

Enough Blue to Make 101

Where Am I and What Am I Doing Here? 112

The Kind of Place You'd Have Trouble Getting Out Of 119

Show Me Where ft Hurts 133

Severed Heads and Chemically Preserved Grouse 140

Something Only He Can See 167

The Tired Mind Is a Stovetop 182

Oxidized Copper Exactly 199

The Girl in Question 211

The Dark Oubliettes of the House 222

The Logical Loophole 237

A Jagged, Dangerous Mass of See 245

You Do What You Have to Do 253

When All the Tiny Lights Begin to Be Extinguished 265

Down the Line 278

And Who Are You? 284

Absolutely the Right Tree 294

An Unexpected Outcome 312

To Hang On, to Never Let Go 320

Always to Be Losing Things 331

Gold-Hatted, High-Bouncing Lover 353

For Dear Life 367

Acknowledgments 385

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of This Must Be the Place, the dazzling new novel by Maggie O’Farrell, acclaimed author of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.

1. For an epigraph, O’Farrell selected a quote from a poem by Louis MacNeice: “World is crazier and more of it than we think, / Incorrigibly plural.” What does this mean? Why do you think she chose it?

2. We see various parts of the story through the eyes of more than a dozen characters, jumping back and forth in time. How do their points of view build on one another?

3. Daniel introduces Claudette to readers by saying, “My wife, I should tell you, is crazy” (page 5). Now that you’ve read the entire novel, do you believe he means this?

4. Why does Daniel’s hearing Nicola Janks’s voice on the radio set the entire story in motion?

5. On page 31, Daniel thinks, “That same feeling of dislocation between what you thought you were doing and what you actually did envelops me as I sit there, as I press my elbows into the surface of my desk. All along I’d thought my life had been one thing, but it now seems it might have been something else entirely.” What does he mean? Is he right about that?

6. The first chapter from Claudette’s perspective, “I Am Not an Actress,” is told from the first-person plural and second-person point of view. Why do you think O’Farrell chose to tell that portion of the story like that? What effect does it have?

7. What does Niall’s eczema symbolize?

8. On page 59, Phoebe describes her feeling of dissociation, “Like I’ve been cut down the middle and I’m in two places at once, or I’m getting radio interference from somewhere, or I’m just a shadow.” On page 361, Marithe describes a similar sensation. Aside from sharing a father, what is the connection between the girls?

9. What do we learn from the auction catalog of Claudette’s memorabilia?

10. When Myrna advises Daniel to go home—“ʻLeave whatever this is alone. What can be gained from turning over old coals?’” (page 118)—why doesn’t he listen? What could have changed if he had?

11. Several chapters are told from the perspective of minor characters, such as Lenny and Maeve. How does this reset your understanding of what’s happening?

12. Pascaline describes Daniel as “someone who is so . . . different on the inside from how they are on the outside” (page 134). What does she mean by that?

13. Why does Daniel’s career as a linguist, studying the way language changes, matter to the story? What does it tell us about his character?

14. What propels Daniel to track down Todd?

15. Why didn’t Todd give Daniel’s letter to Nicola?

16. How does Teresa’s story affect your understanding of Daniel’s behavior? What purpose does her story serve in the novel as a whole?

17. On page 249, Ari describes his stammer as being like an iceberg, “ʻOnly a small part of it is visible, while under the water is a large, jagged, dangerous mass of ice.’” What else in the novel might be described this way?

18. Grief affects some characters more profoundly than others. What similarities do you see in how Daniel and Niall dealt with Phoebe’s death? And differences?

19. Why does Claudette react the way she does when Daniel tells her about Nicola?

20. In the interview transcript, Timou tells the interviewer that Claudette ran away because of “you.” “ʻNot you personally but what you stand for. You are the synecdoche for what she ran away from’” (page 314). What does this mean?

21. Rosalind’s chapter, “Always to Be Losing Things,” reads almost like a stand-alone short story. Why do you think O’Farrell chose to add another layer to the novel? What do we learn here?

22. Rosalind tells Daniel, “ʻI have a theory . . . that marriages end not because of something you did say but because of something you didn’t. All you have to do now is work out what it is’” (page 351). Does Daniel work this out? What does he say to Claudette?

23. Siblings—step-, half, full—play major roles in the novel. How might things have been different if, say, Lucas wasn’t always there for Claudette, or Ari didn’t eventually gain siblings of his own?

24. Toward the end of the novel, Daniel disarms Claudette by complimenting her on her parenting. Why does this have such an effect on her?

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