Monday, April 29, 2013

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell

About the Book

A sweeping family drama, in which the disappearance of a family patriarch forces three adult siblings to gather together to find him and to confront what they really know about their father and themselves.
It's the summer of 1976 and London is in the grip of a record-breaking heat wave when Gretta Riordan discovers that her newly retired husband, Robert, has cleaned out his bank account and vanished. Now, Gretta's three children converge in their mother's home for the first time in years: Michael Francis, a history teacher whose marriage is failing; Monica, with two stepdaughters who despise her and an ugly secret that has driven a wedge between herself and the little sister she once adored; and Aoife, the youngest of the Riordans, now living in Manhattan, a smart, immensely resourceful young woman who has arranged her entire life to conceal her illiteracy. 
As the siblings tease out clues about their father's whereabouts, they navigate rocky pasts and long-held secrets, until at last their search brings them to their ancestral village in Ireland, where the truth of their parents' lives – and their own – is suddenly revealed. Wise, lyrical, instantly engrossing, Instructions for a Heatwave is a richly satisfying page-turner from a writer of exceptional intelligence and grace.


Elena Seymenliyska said in her review in The Telegraph “Just as children’s stories need to dispense with parents before the fun can begin, these novels suggest that men – or, rather, old-fashioned masculine traits such as reliability, stability and predictability – must go out the window for the drama to heat up.”

Think The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, and 2012 Exclusive Books Boeke Winner 2012; Instructions for a Heatwave sends a devoted father and husband fleeing from his home, for a secret long hidden and forgotten – the catch is that no one can tell you; well his wife could, if she would just let herself. So begins the ‘thickening of plot’, as two estranged sisters, Monica and Aoife, arrive home with a burning resentment between them, and a brother whose marriage is on the brink of collapse because of yet another secret. But what would family be if there weren’t dusty secrets hanging about.
It’s no secret that women obviously rule this thickly descriptive novel, while the men battle along with broken dreams. While not my favourite reads this year, Maggie O’Farrell is the author readers take for granted, as they shove her in categories with smultzy ‘easy-reads’ that bookclubs fawn over each month, but I disagree. O’Farrell crafts a story with limited plot and excessive sharp, intricate style that would make Grammarians salivate.

Sadly, I found it too intricate in telling and slow in plot with the redeeming factor that O’Farrell is definitely at her peak, with six award-winning novels under her belt. I just hope this book pushes this author to the literary section where she so aptly belongs.
(This was Exclusive Books's book of the month for April, follow my tag Boeke 2013 for more updates and reviews)

You can find my Boeke 2013 posts here

About the Author

Born in Northern Ireland in 1972, Maggie O'Farrell grew up in Wales and Scotland and now lives in London. She has worked as a waitress, chambermaid, bike messenger, teacher, arts administrator, and journalist in Hong Kong and London, and as the deputy literary editor of The Independent on Sunday. Her debut novel, After You'd Gone (2000), won a Betty Trask Award and was followed by My Lover's Lover (2002); The Distance Between Us (2004), winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006); and The Hand That First Held Mine (2010), winner of the Costa Book Award.



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