Maggie O’Farrell’s second novel is beautifully written and the style is my definition of accessible literary fiction. Although I really liked the first half of the book, the second half lost my attention somewhat.
The story is set in London and begins with a twenty-something, Lily, who meets an attractive man called Marcus – first, he helps her up when she trips over in the road, and then he happens to be at the party she’s going to. It turns out that he’s looking for a new flatmate. By coincidence, Lily is looking for somewhere to live. She moves into the flat, which is occupied by Marcus and his best friend Aidan. The problem is, the girl who used to live there – Sinead – used to share Marcus’s bed, a role which is now Lily’s. Sinead is a kind of ghost, haunting Lily and driving a wedge between her and Marcus.
There was a du Maurier Rebecca atmosphere to the first half. I liked that. However, the tension and broodiness seemed to lessen, as the other sides of the story were told. I wasn’t sure what the book was really about. I didn’t particularly care how it would end. Another problem was that I didn’t warm to any of the characters. I’m sure that I was supposed to like Lily at least. All the people and settings are very middle class and there could have been more variety. If we push all these problems aside, the writing was wonderful. O’Farrell is skilled at finding new and thought-provoking ways of describing ordinary things. Her style is quite poetic.
Having now read three of her novels (and abandoned another), plus her brilliant memoir, I think it may be a long time before I try any more of her work.
My Lover’s Lover was first published in 2002 by Review.