Another book I listened to courtesy of Audible, this latest offering by Maggie O'Farrell gave me hours and hours of huge pleasure. It's her seventh novel, and I think I've read all the others, with varying degrees of enjoyment, but I suspect it's probably her best yet.
This is the story of a marriage, or rather of the two people whose marriage forms the centre of the narrative. But it's a story told through multiple viewpoints from a wide range of times and places. A sort of glorious jigsaw by means of which the reader gradually comes to understand what brought the two main protagonists together, what divided them, what will, we hope, bring them back together.
Daniel Sullivan, born in Brooklyn, is a linguistics professor. On a trip to Donegal, where his family originated, he meets beautiful Claudette Wells and her small son Ari. Claudette is a recluse, on the run from a life and a career as a film star she could no longer bear to be living. She and Daniel fall in love, marry, have two children. But as the years go by Daniel is increasingly haunted by the spectre of his first love affair, with a fragile English academic who, he suspects, he may have driven to suicide. His obsession with finding the truth of what happens, and his resulting alcoholism, cause what seems to be a terminal break to the marriage.
Each chapter in the novel is told from a different point of view, so we hear not only from Daniel and Claudette but also from their various offspring - he has two children from his first marriage -- from Claudette's brother and his wife, desperately wanting to conceive and eventually to adopt -- from her ex-partner, Ari's father -- and there's even a chapter devoted to the sale catalogue of Claudette's possessions after her disappearance. Styles and tenses change according to who is telling the story, and the whole thing gradually melds together to form a rich and satisfying picture of two flawed human beings struggling to find ways to connect emotionally.
This multi-layered narrative was perfect for an audiobook. Amazingly enough there were only two narrators, who did a brilliant job of bringing to life the whole cast of characters. So I'm really glad my first introduction to it came in this form, but I loved it so much I'm going to get a hard copy to read. Wonderful stuff.