Sunday, 15 September 2013

Instructions for a heatwave - Maggie O'Farrell

Instructions for a HeatwaveInstructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'It's July 1976. In London, it hasn't rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he's going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn't come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta's children - two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce - back home, each wih different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.'

This was the first Maggie O’Farrell book I have read and when I had the opportunity to review the book I jumped at the chance. The blurb really drew me in, I thought it would be a wonderful mystery to unravel and I couldn’t wait to get started with it.

From not reading a Maggie O’Farrell book before I was unsure what to have expected, I had heard rave reviews about her other books and was hoping I would find a connection with this book.

This story is about Gretta, it is set in London during the heatwave of 1976, she is an Irish woman, who has three grown up children who have all fled the nest, living in various places of the world. She is married to Robert, he regularly goes out for the morning paper, however one morning he never comes back. Gretta begins to worry as time goes on and when she discovers he has taken money and his passport she decides to call her children, as she realises he may not be returning home for some time.

Gretta’s three children are very different. Michael Francis is the eldest, he is a teacher and is married to Claire, they have two children but their marriage is going through a rough patch. Monica is the middle child. She has been married twice and is currently married to antiques dealer Peter, they live in the county, however Monica is a city girl and is not entirely happy with this as she misses the hustle and bustle of London. Peter her husband had also been married before and has children from the marriage, these children hate Monica with a passion and constantly try to make life difficult for her. Monica also despised Peter at times as he will never stand up for her and take her side when it comes to his children. Finally there is Aoife, she is the youngest and considered the ‘problem child’ she is seemed as a disappointment to the rest of the family and a worry. She lives in New York after a disagreement with Monica caused her to flee across the Atlantic, Aoife has struggled for all her life as she has dyslexia and keeps it as an embarrassing secret and finds it hard to commit to anyone because of it.

All three children return home to Gretta to work of the disappearance of their father, however while they are all under the same roof family secrets begin to come out, and we learn more about the past of the family and their relationships.

I did enjoy reading this book, however I felt I had to concentrate 100% while reading as it was very easy to get confused as it jumps from past memories to the present with them all in the house. I felt that although it was interesting reading and finding out about the siblings’ relationships that the actual story line of the missing father was almost forgotten about and this I felt was a shame. This was the main reason I wanted to read this book and the further and further I got into it, I realised it was very different from what I had expected and although the story was good, I felt a little let down by the blurb which to me suggested it was going to be more about finding the missing father and less about the families relationships.

The story was written very well and the characterisation was excellent, the author also had you changing your emotions and about how you feel about each member of the family throughout the book, which I felt was a real skill to do.

I would like to thank #weekendreads for sending me this book, my review has not been effected in anyway because of this.


  1. I've had this on my TBR for a while and am a little intimidated by it. I'll have to give it a go when I'm in the right frame of mind. Great review though! X

  2. Yeah, I think you definitely have to be in the right frame of mind for it, its certainly not what I expected. Thanks for the nice comment :D x