Faithful Place

Faithful Place - Tana French I debated between clicking the four star and five star buttons on this one, but in the end, even though Tana French is a genius and I enjoyed this book as much as her first two, I decided I just couldn't give it five stars, because I am doing my best to force myself to only give five stars to the books that really really deserve it from now on, and I would be lying if I said this book was perfect. Still, if Goodreads gave me the option, I would probably rank this at 4.5, not 4.

When all is said and done, this was, in a lot of ways, my least favorite of the three Tana French novels I've read thus far, and, in just as many different ways, my favorite of the three. Let me start with the first set of ways: my biggest complaint with The Likeness, French's second novel, is that it moved very very slowly. In fact, when I think back to In The Woods, even that moved along at a fairly slow pace, although in that case I was immediately hooked enough to not care if the book dredged on for 1000 pages. That said, I probably shouldn't be surprised that Faithful Place was every bit as slow moving as it's predecessors: this is clearly a part of French's writing style, and if I don't like it than I should at least know it's coming by now and not complain about it. Still, Faithful Place felt even slower than the first two novels in a lot of ways, and while I don't mind a slowly unfolding plot as long as it keeps me interesting, this one felt a bit dull in places, and I found myself wishing for the end so that the pace would pick up into the conclusion.

My second problem with this book was that it felt both short and rushed. Now, I realize both of these traits sound incongruous with what I said in the last paragraph: how can a novel be simultaneously slow-moving and rushed, and if 400 pages feels short, then how can it really be slow-moving? Still, I felt as though a lot of Faithful Place (the important parts, anyway) were shoved into the last quarter or so of the book, and in the end the big reveal of who-and-why-dun-it wasn't really satisfactory to me. It's not that it was a bad plot line, it's just that I have come to expect more twists and turns from a French story, and this one was far more straightforward and simple than I've come to expect, which left me almost bored and ever so slightly disappointed, if I'm being completely honest (and why on earth would I bother writing this review if I was going to lie?)

Thirdly, in addition to the who-and-why-dun-it seeming a bit too simple for my tastes, the entire answer to the why part seemed a bit forced, as though French had decided who did it and needed to write in a reason that wasn't "because they're evil and cuckoo." While I respect the desire for a motive (in fact if no motive had been presented to me I would be completely furious and expressing that fury throughout this review) but I happen to think murder is something incredibly serious (and I hope I'm not alone in this, I assume I'm not, anyway) and that for someone to commit murder they need a fairly serious motive or a fairly serious head problem. I'm not going to go into that any more here, because I don't believe in spoilers, but suffice it to say I'm not entirely convinced either one existed for our killer in Faithful Place.

On to the things I loved about this book:

First and foremost, French's writing is truly masterful. The prose is lovely and sweet and heartbreaking in all the right ways, and even though I'm not normally a big fan of novels with extended amounts of flashback scenes, she wove them in here delicately and perfectly. I'm not usually one to go for flowery writing, but I can't deny the sheer beauty of what French has created here. This kind of writing is something that was present in both In The Woods and The Likeness, of course, but it was at it's highest peak in Faithful Place, and I need to give credit where credit is due.

Secondly, the characters and relationships contained in Faithful Place are some of my favorites French has created thus far. I was a big fan of Frank Mackey in The Likeness, but, to be quite honest, I wasn't sold on how he would translate as a leading man. Turns out, he makes a brilliant protagonist, imperfections and all. His family and all of his old neighbors, while sometimes on the rough side, were written flawlessly, and their incredibly complicated relationships were portrayed excellently. Additionally, one character that I hadn't expected to have many feelings for, good or bad, was that of Olivia, Frank's ex-wife and the mother of their daughter, Holly, but Olivia turned out to be one of my favorite parts of Faithful Place, and the fact that she was once a lawyer in the prosecutor's office makes me love her even more.

I also need to make a special mention of one of the relationships contained in Faithful Place, and that is the relationship between Frank and his daughter Holly. Holly is nine years old, and she's everything you'd expect from a nine year old, curious and sweet, stubborn and happy and cheerful. She loves her parents, and her parents love her. I don't know how I expected Frank to act towards her, but the compassionate, heartwarming love he has for her at every moment, the way he talks about her and thinks about her and would very clearly give up anything he had for her, including his life, won my heart from the get-go. It takes talent to construct a relationship that beautifully, and talent is something French clearly has.

Thirdly and lastly, the emotions French creates in Faithful Place, both for her characters and, by extension, for her readers, are brilliant, raw, and incredibly real. Again, this is a talent that was evident in both In The Woods and The Likeness, but it was on full display here, and it was one of this novel's most winning qualities. Even though I'm not sold on the murder motives, the emotion contained within them felt completely genuine, and I found myself understanding every single character throughout Faithful Place.

All in all, Faithful Place is filled with rare and beautiful qualities which perfectly embody Tana French's many talents as an author. It may not have been perfect, but nothing really is, and, in the end, the beauty of the whole is worth overlooking the flaws in the parts.