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Maggie O'Farrell In Review

Updated on May 4, 2017

I have only been reading her novels for six months or so. However, I have fallen in love with her writing style and in a rather frenzied fashion I have sought out her other novels to dive into. She has published six books so far, from the year 2000. It was a coincidence that my Mum and I read a book of hers within a week of one another. Upon meeting up, this great book we had just read came up in conversation. From then on we've shared her books and subsequent opinions on them.

Maggie O'Farrell is originally from Northern Ireland and spent a number of years growing up in Scotland. Some of her novels are set in the latter, particularly in and around Edinburgh. The main theme of her novels is that of family; particularly the relations between sisters. The author must draw on personal experience coming from a close knit family herself. Loss, is another theme and how people deal with it.

Her novels characters are believable, likeable and rich. Some authors really fail to give their characters depth and believability. You feel as though you are right in the head of the characters she has penned. That is largely achieved by the psychological reflections and back stories of the characters being revealed. Really like how O'Farrell explores the intricacies and difficulties that exist within relationships and between people. She is also very good at focusing on subtle human behaviours and the ways in which people cope with trauma, loss and rejection. From a personal perspective, I really enjoy little points of recognition in books and relatability. Due to their setting and other factors her novels deal with, they certainly have this and in abundance.


Favourite and first book read of hers, adored it. Two women from different backgrounds connect in this story. It follows Lexie Sinclair, a flamboyant university graduate who has recently moved in with a quirky magazine editor and older man called Innes Kent. Lexie is a bright, vivacious individual who is making great headway in the male dominated world of media and later art. She is very much a modern women and left home and her oppressive family at a young age to pursue her dreams.

It is the 1950's and the setting London. As with her other novels, there is a dual narrative. The second in this book is set in the present day. Elina, an artist originally from Finland has just recently become a mother. She and her husband Ted are adjusting to life as parents with difficulty. O'Farrell brings to life the times that the book is set- particularly Lexie's story from the exciting 50-60's. It is best to be discovered when read, but the two characters stories come together in a surprising manner. It is a novel about personal re-invention, human emotions, love, the changes parenthood bring and how these changes can reawaken memories from ones own upbringing. An excellently crafted novel. Really like books which are set in two different era's. It made for interesting reading having two tales to read and both female protagonists held their own.


This is O'Farrell's debut novel. It opens with the main character, Alice Raike's taking a trip up North to Scotland in order to visit her family. Her visit is fleeting as something she sees spooks her enough to flee and return to London. Shortly after, she finds herself in a coma in hospital having been hit by a car. The questions are, was it really an accident and what did Alice see? These questions do get answered. Her family gathers at her bedside and the story comes together through their conversations and Alice's own memories. The narrative is fairly disjointed, jumping through time and from person to person. There is an air of mystery, hints of secrets and lies- O'Farrell takes you on a journey from before Alice is born to her life in the present day. One of the mysteries is the whereabouts of her great love, he is not by her hospital bed. You learn of Alice's life and how she didn't fit in with her family, also the effects that their relationships with one other have had. The book is wonderfully written, it has an addictive quality to it and hooks you right in. Altogether it is a deep book, intense and unique due to the way it is written.


This is a somewhat haunting tale. An elderly women is set to be released from Cauldstone Psychiatic Hospital where she has been resident for sixty one years. This lady, Esme, was abandoned by her family at a time when mental illness was grossly misunderstood. She was unjustly admitted and imprisoned there. Iris Sinclair is the owner of a vintage clothing store, she has a fairly ordinary modern life. She is a bit afraid of commitment and takes great effort in spurning her boyfriends attempts to make their relationship more permanent. A call reaches her about a family member who is needing to be rehoused due to a hospital closure. This individual is one who she never even knew existed. Her own family had denied her existence, writing her out of their lives. All is not as it seems and there are many secrets that Esme is privy to, ones which shock. The story of her and her families past comes to light. Iris discovers darkness within her own family and all she knows comes into question. It is a short novel, full of twists and turns and is so rich in its descriptions. It is thought provoking, engaging and a real page turner.


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