Review of “Faithful Place” by Tana French

I was fully expecting not to be enamored of this book. Even though I loved French’s other two books, I knew that the main protagonist in this story is a character I hadn’t especially been taken with in his brief appearances in the first two books. So I put off reading this one, and then was floored to discover almost from the outset that I totally loved it! I even dithered around at the end, so I wouldn’t finish it too fast!

Francis (“Frank”) Mackey is a 41-year old divorced undercover detective in Dublin with partial custody he shares with his ex-wife Olivia of precocious nine-year-old Holly. Twenty-two years before, at age 19, he was all set to run off to England with the love of his life, the beautiful Rosie Daly, but Rosie didn’t show up. Frank never really got over it, and he never went back home.

Now his sister Jackie has called him and told him that some renovators of an abandoned tenement on his old street found Rosy’s suitcase, complete with the ferry tickets to England and her birth certificate. Frank cannot avoid making that painful trip back to his childhood home and back to the past in order to find out what happened.

Frank’s not much welcome at first; to the crowded and hard-up tenants of his street – Faithful Place, cops are anathema. And some murders that are discovered after Frank reappears put him under suspicion as well. But if Frank is ever to let go of Rosie in his mind and his heart, he has to know what transpired twenty-two years before. As Frank knew, and even his ex-wife knew, “all the time I was married to Olivia and pretending to belong in Dalkey, I was waiting for Rosie Daly to walk through every door.”

Discussion: The characters of this book are superbly rendered, and in such thick and colorful Dublin dialect you may need an online dictionary of Irish slang to find out what everyone is saying.

The range and depth of the portrayals are remarkable. There are enough simmering passions in this story to set off a volcano, and the raw sorrow that sits like open sores on the characters don’t heal in your own heart once you’ve closed the book. I’ve been talking to my husband about Frank and his brothers like I’ve known them all my life, and I feel that I have!

Frank loved Rosy something fierce, and allows he would have died for her, “back in the day.” He admits, “I had spent my whole adult life growing around a scar shaped like Rosie Daly’s absence.”

Much of the story is about the crazy stew in Frank’s life of poverty and a dysfunctional family and a lack of hope and Rosie: Rosie with her bright copper hair and dazzling smile erased all the ugly parts of Frank’s life. She provided the drop of magic “that stopped you being just another futureless dole bunny moping in his bedsit.” But the magic came to an abrupt end on that night back in December, 1985.

To some extent the role that Rosie played in Frank’s life is now filled by his daughter Holly. She brings him serenity and love and worry and a heart-rending concern over child-rearing that is touching and inspiring. And Frank would die for Holly now, just as he would have died for Rosie, back when she was the one who took his breath away.

The repercussions of the biting, acrid family dynamics of the families on Faithful Place are shown by the depiction of the pain-filled lives of those who got caught in its lethal embrace. I loved that French really made me see all sides of what happened to the people there, including the murderer, so that I actually felt sorry for the murderer even as I felt devastated by the murders. Can there be healing or forgiveness for any of these people? The book ends on a note of hope for some, but not for all. It is truly a stunning story. And if you really want to know how boundless is the grief of what happened, go back and read the prologue after you have finished the last chapter; the knowledge you have gained makes some of those details back in the beginning pierce you like fresh wounds to an already tattered soul.

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: I gave this to Jim to read as part of my sneaky campaign to convince him that we need to take a trip to Ireland, and he loved this book as well! My next purchase was Rick Steve’s guide to Ireland….

Published by Viking, 2010

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17 Responses to Review of “Faithful Place” by Tana French

  1. Julie P. says:

    You crack me up! I’m so glad you liked this one because you’ve been on a roll lately! It seems like the past few weeks you haven’t like many books! Am I wrong?

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    Ti sent me the first book in this series ages ago and I haven’t read it yet. Now I wish I had the time to drop everything and read it. I hope your Ireland campaign is successful!

  3. zibilee says:

    Just about everyone I know has told me to read these books, and Jenners even sent me the second in the series. I feel sort of abashed that I haven’t gotten to them yet, because I know that they are going to be amazing reads. It sounds like this one knocked your socks off, and you gave it such a thought provoking and intense review that I feel I just can’t ignore these for much longer. I also hope that your plan to get to Ireland works out!

  4. Barbara says:

    Wow, you never, ever gush over a novel like this. I must read it. Like Kathy, I sure hope you succeed with your campaign to go to Ireland.

  5. Aarti says:

    Ooh, I hope your sneaky campaign is successful! I adore the Rick Steves guides- so many cute little places he discovers.

  6. first of all, you totally need to go to Ireland!
    I love the west coast, especially from Connemara, all the way around to the southwest and Waterford. Other lovely spots, certainly, but that is the best.

    I own her first two books, but for reasons I do not understand, have read neither. Golly, now I have another I must get!

  7. I am glad you liked this one. It was my favorite French so far. I can’t wait for her fourth book!

  8. I’ve never read a mystery set in Dublin. Looks like a good one!

  9. sandynawrot says:

    First of all, can I just say that I think this is one of the best reviews you’ve ever written? And not just because I loved the book either. Now, of the three Tana French books, this is probably my least favorite but still it is better than 99% of other thrillers out there. I had no interest in Frank Mackey in The Likeness, but I had a big crush on him here (listening to that sexy Irish burr on the audio didn’t hurt either). It makes my heart sing to see that you loved my little Tana.

  10. Jenny says:

    I am clearly missing out on a lot by not having read this series yet!! I have them on my TBR so I will keep in mind that this one is wonderful as well! (I love that it has freezer moments lol!)

  11. Steph says:

    You know that I am a total Tana French fan-girl, but I admit that I was less excited about this one because I don’t really care for Frank Mackey. I did, of course, still read and enjoy this book, but it is probably my least favorite of French’s books to-date. I found the mystery this time a lot more transparent and was able to see the culprit from miles away… still, one doesn’t just read her books for the mystery but also for the atmosphere and characters!

  12. Oh, I sighed aloud to myself when I saw the title on this post! I’m so glad that you did end up loving this. I was a little wary of it because I wasn’t a Frank fan at the end of the last book. French has this incredible addiction quality though, present in all of her stories and I found myself headover heels in love with Frank as much as I had been previously with Rob or Cassie. Great review and good luck on that Ireland trip. ;O)

  13. I’m not sure which one of hers I have in my library but I’ll be sure to add this title if I don’t have it. I like the way you work lady…..make sure you highlight and mark that special places you want to visit before you give the hubby the guide book 😀

  14. Jenners says:

    I just finished reading this tonight!!! I so agree with you … it was stunning and the descriptions of the Place and his family and his love for Rosy were amazing. I loved how they talked too. I could hear it in my mind and now I see why Sandy pushed the audio. And like you said, there were scenes in there that were so lovely and so painful that it gave me pause. I hope Tana French is working on a new book. She’s had three winners in a row.

  15. Jenners says:

    Back again … I have to say that I was sad not to get a little glimpse of Cassie. And I’m predicting that the subject of French’s next book is going to be the young detective Stephen!

  16. Steph says:

    This sounds like a book I’d really enjoy, though the thick Dublin accent might be a bit hard for me to unravel. 🙂

  17. Care says:

    So. Is there a sneaky reason why Rosy is then Rosie? I look forward to reading this – perhaps I should seek out the audio. SOUNDS wonderful.

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