Sophisticated, intelligent, impossible to put down, Maggie O'Farrell's beguiling novels--"After You'd Gone, " winner of a Betty Trask Award; "The Distance Between Us, " winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; "The Hand That First Held Mine, " winner of the Costa Novel Award; and her unforgettable bestseller "The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox"--blend richly textured psychological drama with page-turning suspense.Read more...
Sophisticated, intelligent, impossible to put down, Maggie O'Farrell's beguiling novels--"After You'd Gone, " winner of a Betty Trask Award; "The Distance Between Us, " winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; "The Hand That First Held Mine, " winner of the Costa Novel Award; and her unforgettable bestseller "The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox"--blend richly textured psychological drama with page-turning suspense. "Instructions for a Heatwave" finds her at the top of her game, with a novel about a family crisis set during the legendary British heatwave of 1976.
Gretta Riordan wakes on a stultifying July morning to find that her husband of forty years has gone to get the paper and vanished, cleaning out his bank account along the way. Gretta's three grown children converge on their parents' home for the first time in years: Michael Francis, a history teacher whose marriage is failing; Monica, with two stepdaughters who despise her and a blighted past that has driven away the younger sister she once adored; and Aoife, the youngest, now living in Manhattan, a smart, immensely resourceful young woman who has arranged her entire life to conceal a devastating secret.
Maggie O'Farrell writes with exceptional grace and sensitivity about marriage, about the mysteries that inhere within families, and the fault lines over which we build our lives--the secrets we hide from the people who know and love us best. In a novel that stretches from the heart of London to New York City's Upper West Side to a remote village on the coast of Ireland, O'Farrell paints a bracing portrait of a family falling apart and coming together with hard-won, life-changing truths about who they really are.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-06-24
- Reviewer: Staff
When Gretta Riordan's husband, Robert, disappears during the 1976 London heatwave, her three grown children return home for the first time in years. All are dealing with personal crises that inform their relationships with each other and are tied back to their family history. The oldest, Michael Francis, is trying to keep his marriage together as his wife yearns for independence, and his two sisters, Monica and Aoife, have been estranged for years over a bitter secret that led Aoife across the ocean to New York, where she has made a life for herself while hiding her illiteracy. Under the stress of searching for their father and enduring the unbearable heat—which causes people to "act not so much out of character but deep within it"—the siblings and their mother are forced to confront old resentments which bubble to the surface. O'Farrell skillfully navigates between past and present, as family secrets are revealed and old grudges are hashed out, without ever losing the narrative's pace. An absorbing read from start to finish, through O'Farrell's vibrant prose, each character comes alive as more is revealed and the novel unfolds. (June)
A revelatory portrait of family life
She’s already written five books and her last novel won the U.K.’s coveted Costa Novel Award, but if Instructions for a Heatwave is any indication, Maggie O’Farrell is not ready to rest on her laurels. Here, O’Farrell returns to the subject that has formed the core of her fiction—families and the secrets that both bind them together and threaten to unravel them—and concocts another spellbinding multigenerational saga that will sweep readers away into another time and another life.
It is the summer of 1976, and record temperatures have many Londoners hot under the collar. The Riordan family is thrown into particular upheaval when it is discovered that their patriarch, Robert, has gone missing, having left on a mission to fetch the morning paper, never to return. Only something as serious as their father’s disappearance could bring the three wayward Riordan children back home together, and when their mother, Gretta, begs them to help her track down their father, they are powerless to ignore her call. And so it is that for the first time in years, three adults, who face one another as strangers, find themselves under the same roof, cautiously navigating the familial fault lines. Digging into their parents’ past, the siblings grasp the family’s roots, which send them on a journey back to Ireland. The weather may be cooler in their ancestral homeland, but back on the soil where it all began, it doesn’t take long before the secrets and old grievances that have long been simmering finally come to a boil.
O’Farrell captures the fractious dynamics of the Riordan family with such precision and energy that readers will feel they are right in the thick of the squabbles and spats. With prose that is lyrical yet light, she imbues each of her characters with remarkable humanity. Piercing in its insights and deeply absorbing, Instructions for a Heatwave is literary fiction at its very best.