Faithful Place: Right Book, Wrong Time?

BlogHer Review

I wanted to love Faithful Place by Tana French so much so that I wouldn’t want to put it down, carrying it with me everywhere, cramming in a bit of reading at every small opportunity, the grocery checkout line, car wash, lunch break. I felt that way when I read Tana French’s other two books In the Woods and The Likeness. I devoured those mysteries in a frenzy, anxious and desperate to know the answers, deeply invested in the story and staying up entirely past my bedtime to get to the endings.

But Faithful Place was harder to connect with than her previous books. I felt separated from the main character, Frank. I felt separated from the horror of the primary mystery, possibly because it happened more than twenty years ago, and guessed at the beginning who the murderer might be. I didn’t sit and read it in long swaths of time. I put it down, read other books, and then came back and picked it up again with little enthusiasm. I so hated most of the characters, particularly Frank’s family, that it made it difficult to connect with the story for me. That isn’t to fault Tana French’s writing. She does a strong job of creating layered, realistic characters and placing them into mysterious, tragic circumstances and then seeing how they react. Her police officer characters, from all three books, are dedicated, if not rule following heroes and heroines. I liked Frank and admired the way that he manipulated and finagled reactions and behavior from people to reach his desired ends. But there was something in Faithful Place that just didn’t draw me in. Maybe that was French’s intention, to show Frank’s years of chosen isolation from his family and make sure that that resonated with the reader. And it worked for me because I didn’t want to talk to them for another twenty years either.

Two of my close friends, who often share similar taste in books with me, loved Faithful Place. So maybe this time we chalk up my vague disinterest to one of those cases of “right book, wrong time.” I’ve been reading a lot of Dennis Lehane and Danish crime novels lately, and it could simply be that I’ve burned myself out on the murder mystery genre this summer. Tana French is a gifted and beautiful writer, and I would highly recommend her first two novels. I just wish I felt that strongly about Faithful Place. I wanted to, really I did.


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