My Lover's Lover Paperback – Jan 6 2003
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Maggie O'Farrell was heralded as a major new writer with her debut novel, After You'd Gone. And here she is with My Lover's Lover, demonstrating again her extraordinary talent. The coda to the novel's final part is Evelyn Waugh's "To know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom". It's the choices and chances, the compromises and delusions, made in the search for love that preoccupy O'Farrell's central characters. The setting is 30-something London, New York, and rural China. Lily and Marcus meet at a gallery opening; almost the day after, they're sharing his chic loft, and soon after that, his bed. But if this sounds like chick-lit, any similarities end here. Narrated in four parts, O'Farrell moves adeptly from third to first person, from present to past to future.
Through Lily's account in the first section, a claustrophobic fear pulsates: she is haunted by Marcus's previous lover, Sinead, who seems to be everywhere--"The flat seems sticky with Sinead's fingerprints. [Lily] doesn't know what to do." But according to Marcus, Sinead "is no longer with us". On every page, O'Farrell's transcription of the body as register of the emotions, of fear and desire, is breathtaking. Language dissects and insinuates; revelations unfurl and double back. Sinead's incredulity at Marcus's being "not exactly faithful" and Marcus's old friend Aidan's consternation at his own secret longings are described with such tactility, such spare suggestiveness that these lovers' tales take on a brooding, yet haphazard quality. O'Farrell is an insightful and passionate chronicler of human emotions. It's compulsive and thrilling stuff. --Ruth Petrie --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
British writer O'Farrell turns a deceptively simple romantic novel into an engrossing story of psychological suspense. Lily, a young Londoner, meets Marcus, an architect, at an art opening, and they fall for each other. Within a week, she's moved into his loft, which he also shares with Aidan, a film animator. Lily takes over a room once occupied by Marcus's ex-girlfriend, Sinead. Marcus says very little about Sinead, except that "she's no longer... with us," causing Lily to wonder if perhaps she's dead. As Lily and Marcus become more deeply involved, Lily becomes obsessed with Sinead's fate and thinks she sees her everywhere; especially disconcerting are Sinead's spectral appearances while Lily and Marcus are making love. Then one day, Lily stumbles across the real Sinead and attempts to question her about her relationship with Marcus. Sinead flees, but Lily tracks her down; she finds that Sinead is a lecturer in English literature, and finally gets her to tell why she broke up with Marcus. Sinead's story makes up the second part of the book, chronicling the onset and passionate height of their five-year affair and her discovery that he was an inveterate philanderer. Lily realizes that her relationship with Marcus has been unhealthy; now it's her turn to flee. In the book's final major section, Aidan falls in love with Sinead and a strange turn of events finds three of the characters in Australia. O'Farrell's premise-a woman's curiosity about her lover's former relationship-is somewhat commonplace. What makes her novel distinctive is the supernatural element, which she manages well, suggesting that Lily's subconscious will save her in the end. O'Farrell's debut, After You'd Gone, won a Betty Trask Award.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Lily meets Marcus at a party and he would seem to be the perfect man. A handsome, articulate architect, this man would seem to have no flaws. But things are not as they appear, and the mystery of what happened to Marcus' ex-girfriend Sinead begins to inflitrate their relationship. The lines between reality and imagination are very blurry in this novel, and it takes careful attention to the story to avoid some level of frustration. Overall this is an unusual and compelling read, that had me both confused and delighted. I can't say it ranks quite as high as "After you'd gone", but for fans of Maggie O'Farrell, a must read none the less.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I enjoyed O'Farrell's journey through Lily's mind and how she felt in her relationship with Marcus. Her obsession with Sinead was also interesting but none of the characters felt real to me. Lily's leap into a love affair with a man she knows nothing about just seemed a little strange and his avoidance of every question regarding his previous relationship only compounded the evidence of the fact that he was and still is deceptive.
While wondering about a significant other's past relationships is natural, I think that Lily took her curiosity to the extreme at times, even tricking her subconscious into believing things that were not true.
A good piece of fiction, but I would recommend her other novel before this one.
The story of how each woman managed to be deceived is interesting, but not compelling. Most women are intelligent and appropriately skeptical about these things; and judging by the way these women are characterized in the novel, both of our heroines would have been more careful.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this novel is that there is no definite conclusion. It's touted as a novel of suspense; but apart from a crime passionelle, there is nothing too suspenseful about this. The book just wanders off into a foreign country, and all of a sudden the book's over. I wouldn't recommend anyone read this, although many seem to think O'Farrell is capable of much better judging by her first novel After You'd Gone.
The book begins as homage to DuMaurier's `Rebecca' - which is a far superior novel by all accounts - though O'Farrell makes some acknowledgement to this by having Hitchcock's film playing in the background. The novel then changes pace and moves away from its more accomplished counterpart. I like this method of O'Farrell's; she demonstrated it in her previous novel, but it doesn't work as well here. Similarly, O'Farrell's use of metaphor and simile in this novel appear forced at times, in contrast to the ease of language from her first work.
Some other reviewers commented that she lacked the characterisation required in order to make it a more interesting novel - she did. I did not find any of the characters likeable and found myself unable to care what happened to them. It is as though mid-way through writing it, O'Farrell decided she, herself, did not like her protagonist and wanted to concentrate on another. I did see what O'Farrell had attempted to do with the haunting of the previous girlfriend, but thought she was capable of executing this in a far better way.
Nevertheless, `My Lover's Lover' is a worthy read and, perhaps, if I had not read `After You'd Gone' beforehand, I would not be so critical of it.
This is the story of Lily, a twentysomething Londoner who beleives she may have just met the man of her dreams; a handsome, successful architect named Marcus. Lily learns that Marcus' relationship with an ex-girlfriend named Sinead has recently ended under tragic circumstances. Marcus' veiled comments about Sinead lead Lily to believe she has died, but has she? Lily begins to obsess about what happened to Sinead; when she starts to see her image on the street and in her dreams the lines between reality and fantasy become blurred. The truth of what happened between Marcus and Sinead makes for some gut-wrenching reading. Maggie O'Farrell once again shows her prowess with the pen, creating characters we feel we know intimately. This fascinating look at relationships past and present, and how the two are often intermingled is well worth your time to read. Did I love this novel as much as her first?....no, but that would be asking for a near impossibility. 4.5 stars.