Thursday, 20 February 2014

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell has set her latest novel during  the heatwave that plagued Britain during the summer of 1976.The story concerns the Riordan family and their attempts to make sense of their father’s sudden disappearance.

Gretta, his wife, is bewildered and unable to think what to do, but are her children, with their own private dilemmas, in any state to help? Michael Francis is a teacher, and relieved school is over for another year, but since his  fling with a colleague, his wife neglects house and home to study at the Open University.

Monica has recently remarried an older man with two daughters – she never wanted children of her own – but the girls hate her and want their father to return to their mother. Meanwhile little sister, Aoife, who has been dogged by dyslexia all her life, is called back from New York where she works for a famous photographer.

The reunion of the three siblings and all the baggage of the past make for an uneasy household – Monica can scarcely talk to Aoife and it is left to Michael Francis to keep the peace, while their mother, is reluctant to face the truth of where her husband may have gone. In the background the heatwave adds to everyone’s discomfort.

Instructions for a Heatwave is a wonderful story about the dynamics of family life, and captures the atmosphere of a period of social change. O’Farrell shows enormous compassion for each character, weaving in past events with those of the present, capped off with an emotional yet positive ending.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue Link: Instructions for a Heatwave

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