Tag Archives: Maggie O’Farrell

‘I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death’ by Maggie O’Farrell

“The best way out is always through.” Robert Frost

But O’Farrell says, oh well, if you can’t go through you can always go around! 🙂 I’ve read one novel by this author, now I want to read more. There were things in her life that she would clearly have gone around, but had to go through and now they have been revealed.

What a unique memoir. It is so astonishing, so elegant and beautifully described, and yet so terrible all at once.  Somehow she makes these seventeen stories chilling and eloquent at the same time. In the audio version, Daisy Donovan captures and conveys the vulnerability and strength of the author. O’Farrell knows how to tell a story and Donovan knows how to read it. I hesitate giving this five stars, only because some of it may be triggering for those who have experienced similar trauma. People will need to talk about this after reading it, so it’s perfect for book clubs.

We are never closer to life than when we brush up against the possibility of death.  There was the childhood illness that left her bedridden for a year, from 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. Her heartbreaking struggle with fertility and miscarriage. Scary near accidents. 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. The message is simple. Life is precious.

Here’s an excellent review in the Guardian: “I’ve revealed the secrets I’ve spent my life hiding.”

‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ by Maggie O’Farrell

Instructions for a HeatwavestarstarstarOne morning, during the infamous 1976 heatwave in London, a retired Irish gentleman walks to the corner store for a paper and never returns. Upon hearing of his disappearance, the children gather in the family home to support their Mammy and try to figure out what has happened to their father. The three children each have problems of their own. The estranged sisters are barely on speaking terms, the brother’s marriage is on the brink of divorce, and all have secrets which are haunting them.  As the family gathers, the story focuses mostly on the brokenness of their relationships, with a heavy dose of Catholic guilt thrown in. Digging for clues, even more secrets from the past are unearthed,  but through it all, there is very little plot and seemingly very little concern for dear old Dad. His disappearance becomes rather secondary, serving only as the catalyst for the actors to gather on this “family drama” stage, during a time of crisis.

It wasn’t a great novel, but I did enjoy it as a nice easy (beach) read and will definitely pick up another O’Farrell at some point in time. A friend recommended this author to me and I’m glad she did. This is O’Farrell’s most recent novel, she has many more earlier ones which some reviewers found to be better than this one.

Maggie O’Farrell’s Website