Instructions for a Heatwave

"Instructions for a Heatwave" by Maggie O'Farrell (reviewed 8th June)

(The Guardian) - The weather isn't the only thing that's oppressing the family in Maggie O'Farrell's taut, compelling sixth novel

During the heatwave of summer 1976 a devoted husband and father of three gets up from the breakfast table and goes out to buy a newspaper. He doesn't come back. Robert Riordan was recently retired, but still there was nothing to suggest to his wife Gretta that he was unhappy or about to do a disappearing act. Gretta is adamant that she has no idea where he is or why he has gone. Robert and Gretta's grown-up children descend upon the family home to scratch their heads and console their mother.

All the hallmarks of an O'Farrell novel are here: a family with secrets in its past and words left unsaid years ago, relatives long since forgotten, a claustrophobic atmosphere of uncomfortable emotional closeness. This is an accomplished and addictive story told with real humanity, warmth and infectious love for the characters. Highly recommended.

(The Telegraph) - A beautiful portrait of family life amid an unravelling crisis

(The independent) - This humorous, humane and perceptive domestic saga broils with the resentments left behind by an absent husband and father

(New York Times) – The author has made her mark by combining the elements of good old-¬fashioned drama with a modern lightness of touch in language and a deft freedom in moving her narratives forward through juxtaposition rather than -linear plotting.

This was another book we enjoyed reading, with most of the group awarding 3.5 or 4.0 out of five. There was no 5.0 given but one score of 2.0.

As one member of the group said, “I loved the book - although I’m not too sure about the ending, it seemed a bit inconclusive. I wanted to know more about this shadowy character who suddenly re-appeared. However, I’m prepared to overlook this as I thought the rest was so well written and convincing. What a family!!!”