Faithful Place, by Tana French – Book Review

Faithful Place, by Tana French
Viking Adult – July 13, 2010 – Hardcover – 416 pages
Source: Review Copy

Frank Mackey and Rosie Daly decide to run away from their poor upbringing and disapproving parents to begin a new life in London, England, pursuing careers in the music industry.  Frank waits for Rosie at the appointed time out on Faithful Place, but she doesn’t show, and when he finds a Dear John letter seemingly ending their relationship, he decides to leave home anyway and not once does he look back.  Twenty-two years have passed when Frank receives a frantic call from his sister Jackie- a suitcase has been found stuffed in a fireplace in one of the old houses on Faithful Place…and it’s Rosie’s.

I have deeply mixed feelings on how I feel about Faithful Place, and I think a lot of what I think has to do with what type of storytelling I enjoy and characters that interest me. This novel is masterfully crafted and French’s writing is just as finely honed as in The Likeness, if not moreso.  I just wasn’t very interested in Frank and his goings on for more than half the novel, and I didn’t enjoy Faithful Place nearly as much as I enjoyed French’s other two novels.  Something was missing for me, and though I’ll try to explain, I’m not even sure I know exactly what was lacking.

Faithful Place follows a minor character in French’s last novel, The Likeness.  I liked Frank okay in The Likness as the undercover leader who is a little mysterious, and one to play fast and loose with not only the rules, but also the undercovers for whom he is responsible.  You know that he may not be a particularly nice guy, and you definitely suspect some sort of troubled past.  My main problem from the start was not really liking Frank, nor wanting to know that much about him.

The first 150 pages or so takes us into his world and establishes the mystery from his past, Frank as a family man through his ex-wife and child, and what characterizes his relationship with his family, from whom he been estranged for twenty-two years.  The reader doesn’t really get to see him in his job of managing undercovers and running operations, so much as we get to see him make decisions on how to get answers from people in the old neighborhood whom he used to know, while he investigates the suitcase and considers new possibilites of what really happened to Rosie all those years ago.  He has barriers now that didn’t exist before which have a lot to do with his chosen career as a police officer.

This novel is also dialogue driven. I remember both In the Woods and The Likeness as being more balanced between dialogue and narrative.  Even though there is a lot of the regional flavor in the accents of the well-to-do vs.  poor Dubliners, and an examination of class tensions and differences (a theme appearing in all of French’s novels), I am not a huge fan of pages of conversation.  It took me quite a while to get into this book, and even when halfway through, I had a lot of reservations about whether I would ultimately enjoy it.  After adjusting to the style, I was eventually hooked into the mystery, and very curious to see how the unfolding and the solving of the crime would occur.

As with her other novels, and even though it took a while for it to kick in, French constructs a taut and suspenseful thriller.  I came to appreciate Frank Mackey’s complexities of character and his story even though he wasn’t someone whom I originally wanted to read about.  While the novel dipped into both the past and the present, I was much more interested in the present and the relationships that Frank had with his ex-wife and daughter.  I really wanted to love this book, and I think I managed to get through the first half because of how much I wanted to love it.  I had been sorely tempted several times to put it aside.  By the end, Faithful Place had morphed into a satisfying read even though it required a lot for me in terms of initial investment. It didn’t engage me the way French novels have in the past.  French continues to be an author to whose work I will look forward, but I think Faithful Place will probably be most enjoyed by fans of Frank Mackey.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane

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  1. I haven’t tried any of French’s work, but have heard such great things about it, so I’m disappointed you didn’t love this one. I have In the Woods in my TBR pile, and I need to get to it.

    1. The Likeness is my favorite. In the Woods is good, and then she went and perfected it. I think Frank is a strong character, it just took a very long time for him to click with me.

  2. I’ve had that same feeling about not really caring for a book but not being able to put your finger on it. I have yet to experience her first two books even though they’re sitting on my shelves as I type this!! I wish that this had been a better read for you but sometimes authors stumble and this may that one for her.

    1. I think a lot had to do with the fact that Frank as a character never interested me and I am not too fond of dialogue heavy books. By then end she had me though, but I would have never have gotten that far had it not been a Tana French book.

  3. It’s hard when it takes so long to find a connection while reading a book. I’m always torn as to whether to give up or persevere. I loved IN THE WOODS. I know a lot of people were disappointed with the ending, but I was fine with things. I started THE LIKENESS and it just lost steam for me. Not sure why. I think I may need to go back and reread the first one, try the second again, and then tackle this one. Or maybe I should just try this one.

    1. Kay, I was fine with In The Woods too. There are things that I love about that book, but The Likeness has been the one for me so far. I think most people will probably like this one a whole lot more than I did, and I am curious to see what you think.

  4. I’m one of the un-fans of In the Woods (mostly because of the ending and the supernatural element that went nowhere), although I did like The Likeness. This one, though…I think I’ll just skip it, as I was never that interested in Frank.

    1. Ah yes...In The Woods. i think she might never make that mistake again. I loved Rob and Cassie and all of the psychological stuff. The Likeness is my fave of the bunch.

  5. After THE LIKENESS, I am willing to follow Tana French anywhere. I just got this in the mail and am so looking forward to it. I’ll be advised that the beginning may be slow.

    1. Lenore, I have no doubt that I will still be trotting along behind Tana. I knew from the beginning that Frank would not be my cup of tea, but she still had me hooked by the end.

  6. I can’t wait to read this one, although the storyline doesn’t excite me as much as French’s other two. I feel like I always have to take my time with her though–I am never drawn in straight away.

  7. Hearing this makes me very sad! I LOVED The Likeness, and Faithful Place was high on my list of things I need to read this year. But I would have to agree with you on Frank. I wasn’t really all that invested in him in the first place. He is not someone you really want to get to know better. I doubt if I will read this…too many others out there begging for my attention.

  8. I keep meaning to try In the Woods . . . but I never seem to pick it up when I’m looking for my next read. Sorry this one wasn’t as good as her others, but I guess everyone is entitled to a slump now and then.

  9. I waited until I finished the book and now I get to come back and read your review, which was really interesting to me. Oddly, I didn’t care for Frank at all in The Likeness…truth to be told, I couldn’t stand his character.

    But in Faithful Place, I absolutely loved him (yes, even developed a Frank-crush, LOL). I think I liked his smart-assed attitude and above all his self-confidence, which I assumed stemmed from his ability to rise far above what his childhood dictated.

    I love how a character in a book can evoke such different feelings in different readers….I find it fascinating.

    As for Faithful Place, it was by far my favorite of the three thus far (with The Likeness not far behind it). I was surprised, though, that Rob or Cassie didn’t get a passing mention at all.

    Truly, I do hope French continues writing these books. She’s a favorite of mine.

  10. Just found your blog and added you to my feed. LOVE it.
    I really enjoyed this book, but haven’t yet read The Likeness. Now I can’t wait.
    My problem wasn’t with the dialogue, I rather liked that part, but I really didn’t like going back into the past and reliving the times with Shay and Rosie. That seemed awkward and out of place.
    I’ll be back frequently to help choose books. I love classics and really have a hard time finding fiction I enjoy.
    Tana French has been the first in awhile.