Tag Archives: maggie o’farrell

I am, I am, I am – Maggie O’Farrell

I am, I am, I am – Maggie O’Farrell

I do like books by Maggie O’Farrell, Hamnet was one of my favourite books of 2020. This was a christmas present and I was very keen to read it.

Here’s he blurb …

I Am, I Am, I Am is Maggie O’Farrell’s astonishing memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life. The childhood illness that left her bedridden for a year, which she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. An encounter with a disturbed man on a remote path. And, most terrifying of all, an ongoing, daily struggle to protect her daughter–for whom this book was written–from a condition that leaves her unimaginably vulnerable to life’s myriad dangers.

Seventeen discrete encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots. In taut prose that vibrates with electricity and restrained emotion, O’Farrell captures the perils running just beneath the surface, and illuminates the preciousness, beauty, and mysteries of life itself.

This was a very interesting way to write a memoir. She had so many brushes with death and not just through accident or illness, she met people who meant her harm. The majority of the chapters (but not all) are about her brushes with death; illness as a child, near drownings, weird men on paths while hiking, child birth, etc. She writes extremely movingly about miscarriage and her daughter’s severe allergies.

It’s very easy to read and you don’t need to read it all at once, you could just do a chapter every now and then.

A review

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Filed under 4, Biography, Memoir, Non-Fiction

The Marriage Portrait – Maggie O’Farrell

The Marriage Portrait – Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet was my favourite book of 2020, so I was keen to read this new novel.

Here’s the blurb …

I thought I had made myself clear. I want something that conveys her majesty, her bloodline. Do you understand? She is no ordinary mortal. Treat her thus.’

Florence, the 1560s. Lucrezia, third daughter of Cosimo de’ Medici, is free to wander the palazzo at will, wondering at its treasures and observing its clandestine workings. But when her older sister dies on the eve of marriage to Alfonso d’Este, heir to the Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: Alfonso is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father to accept on her behalf.

Having barely left girlhood, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appears before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?

As Lucrezia sits in uncomfortable finery for the painting which is to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferrarese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, her future hangs entirely in the balance.

It took me a while to get into this one. It’s told from Lucrezia’s point of view, so although you know something is not quite right, you’re in the dark as to what is actually going on. The writing is beautiful and I was facsinated by the lifestyle of aristocratic Italians in the 16th century. The descriptions of the palazzo and the fortessa, the clothes and the food were fascinating.

I still preferred Hamnet to this one, but I enjoyed it.

A review

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Filed under 3, Fiction, Historical Fiction

‘The Distance Between Us’ and ‘My Lover’s Lover’ – Maggie O’Farrell

I’ve been having a bit of a Maggie O’Farrell festival.

Here is the blurb for The Distance Between Us

Stella has fled London to confront the childhood secret which has marked her life. A set of tragic circumstances and a hasty marriage bring Jake from Hong Kong to Britain, where he embarks upon a quest for the father he never knew. When Jake and Stella meet, both of their lives are changed forever.

I didn’t like this novel as much as The Hand that First Held Mine or After You’d Gone, but more than My Lover’s Lover. Stella has a secret and it seems to involve a red-haired man with a Scottish accent (all sorts of ideas run through your mine, but I never guessed the truth). She is very close to her sister Nina (too close I think). Stella runs away from a job in London to a menial job in a hotel in country Scotland. Jake, while searching for his father, turns up at the same hotel. This story has all of the features of an O’Farrell novel; different view points, a mystery, shifting time, etc.

Here are some other reviews …


Reading Guide at Maggie O’Farrell’s website

Here is the blurb for My Lover’s Lover

When Lily meets Marcus at a gallery opening in London, she is immediately attracted to him. In less than a week, she falls deeply in love with the magnetic but elusive architect and moves into his echoing loft apartment in East London.

Nothing could have prepared Lily for what she finds there. A distinct presence of another woman lingers in the loft, one who seems to have disappeared in a hurry, leaving behind a single party dress hanging in the closet, a puzzling mark on the wall, and the suffocating scent of jasmine. Lily’s unsettling curiosity turns to obsession as the spirit of this mysterious woman increasingly haunts her.

Who was she? What were the circumstances of her sudden disappearance? Marcus refuses to talk about the woman or her fate. The apartment’s other inhabitant, Aidan, seems to understand Lily’s concern, but he is also unwilling to give her any information.

This would have to be my least favourite novel. I didn’t like Lily or Marcus and there wasn’t much of Aiden (who I did like). The ghost sections were fabulous, but Lily just seemed creepy and/or mad. I could see what O’Farrell was trying to do (can’t tell you otherwise it will ruin the story), but I just didn’t like it.

Here are some other reviews…





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Filed under Fiction - Light

After You’d Gone – Maggie O’Farrell

As I loved The Hand That First Held Mine (read about that here), I had to read more of her work. I wasn’t disappointed.

Here is the blurb …

“When Alice Raike’s sisters come to pick her up at the train station, they find her wild-eyed, confused, and insistent on returning to London that very minute. Only a few hours later, they receive terrible news – Alice is lying in a coma after an accident that may or may not have been a suicide attempt. While her life hangs in the balance, Alice’s family gathers at her bedside. As they wait, argue, and remember, long-buried tensions rise to the surface. Alice, meanwhile, sliding between different levels of consciousness, recalls her past and the end of a tragic love affair…

This is classic O’Farrell – different narrative view points, jumping around in time and suspense (exactly what did Alice see in the bathroom?) I can’t write about the plot without giving the story away, I’ll just say that the Raikes family has issues, but by O’Farrell switching viewpoints we have sympathy for all of the characters (even, I’m surprised to say, Alice’s mother Ann). O’Farrell’s ability to write the inner thoughts and motivations of her characters is uncanny. There is no black and white, good or bad, just many shades of grey. Your sympathies alter with the narrative – I was constantly revising my opinion about Ann. If you like character driven novels, then you will enjoy O’Farrell’s novels.

More reviews …





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