Despite having had my nose in a book for the best part of the past two decades, until recently I had not yet read anything by Maggie O’Farrell. Prior to beginning Instructions for a Heatwave, I had just finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and while I had promised myself to alternate reading current publications with novels from the BBC’s Big Read, I somewhat digressed from the list.
Having never read Maggie O’Farrell before, I had few expectations of her latest novel. Set against the balmy backdrop of a heatwave in London, the year is 1976 and the Riordan’s are experiencing a family crisis. Retired Robert, husband to Gretta and father of Michael Francis, Monica and Aoife – all of whom are struggling with their own, personal dilemmas – goes to the cornershop one morning to buy a newspaper and doesn’t come back.
His disappearance brings his estranged children and wife back together – Michael Francis, who’s on the brink of divorce, twice married Monica and wild child Aoife, who lives in New York and hasn’t been home for three years. While not a harmonious reunion, it gives each of the characters a chance to delve deeper into the trials their personal lives are currently in the throes of.
The characters are expertly crafted, the is plot captivating and the writing is both skilled and subtle. Instructions for a Heatwave is the perfect family saga and a wonderful tale of flaws and forgiveness.