Maggie O’Farrell has form when it comes to disappearing women. People often go missing in her novels. Sometimes these disappearances are self-imposed acts of escape; sometimes, as in the case of her 2006 novel, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, in which a young woman is imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital for sixty years, other forces are at work.
In her latest novel it’s Claudette Wells, a film star at the height of her fame, who disappears, walking away from her director husband and her career in the middle of a shoot, leading to rumours that she might have drowned. Claudette goes to live a reclusive, secluded existence in a remote part of Ireland with her second husband, Daniel, a Brooklyn-born linguist, and their children. While her act of self-erasure is central to the narrative, it is also part of a far larger study of the intricacies and complexities of family life, of the secrets people carry and the demands people in love can make of each other.