Book Review: Faithful Place by Tana French

25 Jan

Faithful PlaceRating:  4 out of 5 stars

About the Book

Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was nineteen, growing up poor in Dublin’s inner city, and living crammed into a small flat with his family on Faithful Place. But he had his sights set on a lot more. He and Rosie Daly were all ready to run away to London together, get married, get good jobs, break away from factory work and poverty and their old lives.

But on the winter night when they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn’t show. Frank took it for granted that she’d dumped him-probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again.

Neither did Rosie. Everyone thought she had gone to England on her own and was over there living a shiny new life. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie’s suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank is going home whether he likes it or not.

Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind. The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he’s a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.

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My Review

Faithful Place is actually the third book in a ‘series’ by Tana French.  The first book is called In The Woods and the second book is called The Likeness.  I write ‘series’ because while they are related, you don’t have to read them in order.  Minor characters in one book becomes the focus of the next book.  I read In the Woods sometime last year and liked it okay, but I have not read The Likeness.  After reading Faithful Place, however, you can bet that The Likeness is on my list!

I read this book during a record cold weekend here in my hometown.  It was the perfect choice.  This book describes what I (and many others) call a ‘cozy read’.  It’s pretty self-explanatory – it’s a book that makes you feel cozy, that is best read when being cozy!

I loved this book for a couple major reasons.  First and foremost, I thought the writing was brilliant – the characters are very intricately developed. The main character especially, was so multi-dimensional, ‘layered’, and very realistic.  Also, no words were wasted – each sentence carried meaning and weight, and furthered the development of the characters and story.  And there were many subtleties in the writing…here’s a passage that illustrates this well:

The bass player broke a string to prove he was serious, and while he was changing it Rosie and I went up to the bar for more wine.
“That stuff’s poxy,” Rosie told the barman, fanning herself with her top.
“I know, yeah.  I think they make it out of Benylin.  Leave it in the airing cupboard for a few weeks and away you go.”  The barman liked us.
“Poxier than usual, even.  You got a bad batch.  Have you nothing decent, have you not?”
“This does the job, doesn’t it?  Otherwise, ditch the boyfriend, wait till we close up and I’ll take you somewhere better.”
I said, “Will I give you a smack myself, or will I just leave it to your mot?” The barman’s girlfriend had a Mohawk and sleeve tattoos.  We got on with her, too.
“You do it.  She’s harder than you are.”  He winked at us and headed off to get my change.
Rosie said, “I’ve a bit of news.”
She sounded serious.  I forgot all about the barman and started frantically trying to add up dates in my head.  “Yeah?  What?”
“There’s someone retiring off the line at Guinness’s, next month.  My da says he’s been talking me up every change he gets and if I want the job, it’s mine.”

Did you catch all that?  Two parts stick out…the reference to the bass player breaking a string “to prove he was serious” and the main character “…frantically trying to add dates up in my head.”   I had to read this novel slowly to ensure I didn’t miss any of these – they really add to the overall story and the main character.  Because of the Irish dialect, this was a bit tedious, but I adore it so much it was a treat for me.

Secondly, the setting and time period has a special place in my heart and made it much more personal to read.  This story takes place in modern-day Dublin, Ireland which I have visited.  Reading this book made me remember that trip, which was nice.  Much of the book is Frank reflecting on his life growing up in the 1980s in an area called Faithful Place outside of Dublin.  My father-in-law grew up in Dublin and is close in age to Frank’s parents.   While I don’t think that my father-in-law is anything like Frank’s dad specifically, I can certainly see how they could be in the same generation.  Reading about the Mackey history gave me a glimpse into my own family’s history too.  And he talks just like that!  Additionally, my own grandparents came from Italy to America when they were in their teens.  And while their ‘old country’ is different,  I can see similarities between Frank’s dad and my Italian grandfather as well.  There is this very to the point, black and white, like gruff exterior that I saw in James Mackey that reminded me of my grandfather.  That mentality manifests itself into things like criticizing as a way of controlling situations, not being overly indulgent with the compliments, and not liking doctors (?).  Don’t get me wrong, I love my grandfather, but I didn’t always know what he was thinking or why he thought a certain way.  So some of the struggles I saw Frank have relating to his parents seemed familiar to me and reading about it was a source of comfort.

The only negative I see with this book is the plot – plausible but predictable.  I figured it out on page 169, which made reading the rest of the 400 page book obviously less suspenseful.  If the plot had been a bit fresher I would have rated this higher for sure.

Bottom Line: This is a great cozy read!  It is intelligently written with many subtleties, and realistic characters in an interesting setting.  While the plot is somewhat predictable, how it unfolds and your investment in the characters will keep you interested.

PS – If you are wondering when I will finish The Passage (which has been listed as the book I’m currently reading, even though I keep publishing reviews about other books), I actually AM reading it.  It’s slow going, but I’m reading about 20 pages a day.  I’m on page 253 and things are starting to pick up.  It’s 900 some pages!

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Faithful Place by Tana French”

  1. Coffee and a Book Chick January 25, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    I’m a little behind – I need to read the first one! I’ve heard so many wonderful things about this author – cannot wait!

  2. Amy January 25, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    This book sounds fantastic. I have the 2nd book in the trilogy’ but, although I’m not usually one who cares about reading a series in order, for some reason I want to read In the Woods before I read The Likeness and then Faithful Place. I’m really looking forward to all of them since I’ve read rave reviews about Ms. French’s writing and her wonderful characters.
    I’m sorry to read that the plot was rather predictable. I used to read a lot of mystery/thriller/suspense type books and after a while most of the plots start to resemble each other! This book sounds like it has a lot going for it and I am looking forward to reading it!

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