Did I buy this book because I’ve read Maggie O’Farrell before and generally liked her work? Sure. Did I REALLY buy this book because it was a buck at Goodwill and quoted the Talking Heads? Yeah, that’s the main reason. I didn’t even judge a book by its cover, I judged it by the title. This is why I have something like 200 unread books in my house. I have a problem.
Anyway, this sort of felt a bit like The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, but better. The book is told from multiple perspectives, but follows Daniel, an everyman linguist and his reclusive ex-superstar wife as they fall together, and apart, and together again.
Obviously Claudette, the star who walks away from her life at her career peak after her collaborator and boyfriend cheats on her, borrows the most from O’Farrell’s previous book. And she is by far the most interesting character; I only found Daniel interesting through her eyes. Their meeting, with him genuinely not recognizing her and bonding with her son by teaching him how to avoid stuttering was charming.
Their schism was less interesting and felt a bit contrived to me, but again, Claudette’s reaction to feeling betrayed (even if I had a hard time relating to the betrayal itself) was the most interesting part. The whole Nicola Janx saga just felt like it belonged in a different novel, and something from before the couple met breaking them up just seemed bizarre to me. I liked the two together so much, though, that I was relieved by the reunion even if it was predictable.