Instructions for a Heatwave

Instructions for a Heatwave
By Maggie O’Farrell

This book is totally character-driven. If you’re looking for lots of plot and action then this book is definitely not for you.
The book hangs,not on the Heatwave of 1976, as the title would have you believe, In fact it is hard to understand what the heatwave has to do with anything in the book at all apart from a couple of mentions of ‘phew it’s very hot today’ the heat and the year are irrelevant, but on the disappearance of Robert Riordan, husband and father of three.
When Robert disappears it causes his three children to reunite to help their mother try to find him.
The book is then about the various disfunctional lives of the mother and children who bear secrets from the world and from each other.
It’s hard to imagine anyone liking The garrulous Irish Catholic mother Gretta, and she does nothing to redeem herself as the story wears on. Michael Francis, the eldest, is a teacher whose marriage is in difficulties and he feels stuck in a life he never wanted. Monica has lost her first husband (and her sister) due to a tragedy. Re-married, her step-children make her life a misery and she is deeply unhappy. Then there is Aoife, the late, problem child, although her problems are not of her making. She has managed to ‘escape’ the family and make a life for herself in America.
If there was one thing I would have to say was a negative it would be that it was hard, if not impossible, to believe no-one knew about Aoife’s ‘problem’ from childhood right through to adulthood.
It is hard to say I enjoyed this book as I found it quite depressing in places but that doesn’t make it bad. In fact I have thought about the characters since finishing the book and for me that is the sign of a good writer. I haven’t read anything else by Maggie O’Farrell but I definitely will now after reading Instructions for a Heatwave.


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