Monday, January 30, 2012

Faithful Place

Twenty-two years ago Detective Frank Mackey's heart was broken on the night that he thought he was going to run off to England with his childhood sweetheart. But Rosie never showed. Instead, she left a 'Dear John' letter for him and disappeared out of his life forever. Frank never went back to his home on Faithful Place, unwilling to face his dysfunctional family without Rosie just a few houses away. Now Rosie's suitcase has been found in a derelict house on Faithful Place and 41-year-old Frank is on the trail to discover what happened, finally, to the love of his youthful life. His trail leads him back to Faithful Place, the street so filled with memories and demons that he hoped he'd never have to return. 

Faithful Place shows Tana French at her best, back in the groove after the somewhat disappointing The Likeness. Frank was introduced in The Likeness as Cassie's boss from Undercover. He is a renegade. His moral code as a cop is pretty skewed; he'd be the kind of cop arrested for police brutality. But as a man and as a devoted father, he tries to do what is right. Solving the mystery of what happened to Rosie gets to Frank's head, in that he has to reassess what he has believed to be true for the last 22 years, even his views toward women, and the reasons his marriage crumbled. But it doesn't shake him fundamentally as a person, because Frank knows himself and what he fundamentally believes. He knows what he stands for and he will not be swayed in his very identity as Rob Ryan was in In the Woods and Cassie was in The Likeness.  Frank's contemporary story is alternated with gentle flashbacks of life with Rosie from his youth. A working-class neighborhood in 1980s Dublin is vividly evoked.

The writing, as expected, is polished and poetic. French displays impeccable mastery of dialogue. I could really hear characters saying what I was reading and the Irish slang is delectable. In a flashback, Rosie tells Frank she's been offered a coveted job at the Guinness factory and Frank replies, "Ah, deadly." Deadly. That's awesome. Could I incorporate this into my own vernacular? And her use of profanity is mildly amazing. I don't swear, myself. I happen to think it's crass and coarse and generally unnecessary. Also, I'm saving up my swearing for when I really need it to count for something. For example: being mugged. Then I hope to unleash a string of well-constructed profanities that would impress a rapper. Until that day, I keep it strictly "oh-gee-whiz"-G-rated. But I can appreciate some fine profanity, when used to proper effect, and French uses it well. A few times, I even re-read a passage with particularly enticing cuss words, just to be awed at her use of language and dialogue, profanity included. 

Sometimes when we are riding in the car, Nathan rolls down the window and spits outside as we are careening down the road at 50 MPH. And invariably, I wait a fraction of a second and then jerk my head to the side away from him and smack my hand against my cheek as if a giant loogie had collided with my face in some unfortunate current of wind. Nathan says this is completely predictable behavior, and it takes a lot of physical effort to restrain from doing this highly comedic bit just to prove myself unpredictable. But here again, I'm predictable. I loved Faithful Place because I have a crush on Frank Mackey: his blue eyes, his loyalty, his capacity to love, and his desire to be a good example to his young daughter.
I said, "What are you on about? I love you."
It stunned me. I had never said it before. I knew that I would never say it again, not really; that you only get one shot at it in a lifetime. I got mine out of nowhere on a misty autumn evening, under a street lamp shining yellow streaks on the wet pavement, with Rosie's strong pliable fingers woven through mine.
Rating: 4.25/5 stars. If you loved In the Woods, skip The Likeness and head straight for this goodie. Tighter writing and a satisfying ending.


SaraO said...

I'll take this one...just set it aside for me. So long as you promise I don't have to read the second in the series to understand ;)

I'm a g-rated swearer too. Except if I do get mugged some day, I'm going to be completely unprepared for the explicit experience, lol.

Brasil said...

I bought this book based on all the recommendations and I did not find it nearly as interesting as many of the other readers. The pace of the book didn't really start picking up until halfway through it, and at that point I was so irritated by the main character, Frank, that I wasn't sure if I even wanted to continue reading.

RachelKiwi said...

sorry you didn't like it, Brasil. i really liked this one. but to each her own, i guess. it's funny how two different readers can have such differing opinions, because i had a major crush on Frank, and you were annoyed by him! :)