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Instructions for a heatwave by Maggie…

Instructions for a heatwave (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Maggie O'Farrell

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1,0766618,997 (3.73)119
When a recently retired family patriarch clears out his bank account and disappears during a sweltering summer in 1976, his three children converge on their mother's home for the first time in years and track clues to an ancestral village in Ireland, where they uncover illuminating family secrets.
Title:Instructions for a heatwave
Authors:Maggie O'Farrell
Info:London : Tinder, 2013.
Collections:Read 2024

Work Information

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell (2013)

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» See also 119 mentions

English (60)  Catalan (2)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (64)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
It was fine but I think I'm done with her. Just all kinds of dull stories about lame family secrets. ( )
  RaynaPolsky | Apr 23, 2024 |
A good read. Maggie O'Farrell sent me directly back to the unendingly sweltering summer of 1976. She intoduced me to a complicated family, as dysfunctional as so many families are. Rovert Riordan disappears having allegedly just popped out for a paper. It's soon clear he never intended to come back. His three adult children return home from their own complicated and unsatisfactory lives to help support their mother.

This is the psychologically complex and gripping story of what happens next. And in the manner of all good stories, we're left wondering what happens after we've turned the last page of this engrossing book. ( )
  Margaret09 | Apr 15, 2024 |
I do like this author. A well written story that explores family relationships especially between siblings. Monica, Michael Francis and Aoidfe must come to help their mother when their father mysteriously disappears . They all gave their own issues Monica , too close to her mother and bitter as a stepmother still mourning her first marriage that she lost due to a secret abortion. Then Michael Francis trying to repair his marriage after a one night stand. He has 2 children and hates his teaching job. Then the 3rd daughter born 13 years later and who ran away to NYC to escape the family and her big secret . She cannot read although we don’t know her issue. Possibly dyslexic . And their mom Greta. She’s a great character totally devoted to her kids but a bit crazy too. A great cast if characters ! ( )
  Smits | Jan 3, 2024 |
It seems like a long time since I have read a good book with uncomplicated pleasure. I enjoyed the way the author lets the truths of each character and their histories and the story's events drop into place, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle slowly fitting together until the full image is finally complete. The people and their relationships felt real and true. My book has little tabs sticking out everywhere marking the sentences and phrases and paragraphs that resonated with me.

There wasn't much in the way of plot, though. This is a character driven story. And the ending mostly wrapped up a little too neatly. And one character's visual processing problems didn't make a lot of sense to me. But none of these things are enough to drop it a full star.

Hardcover version, excellent quality, that has been sitting on my shelf since 2014 and I don't even remember why I bought it, but I'll look for more from this same author. ( )
  Doodlebug34 | Jan 1, 2024 |
The Riordan family, Irish immigrants living in London, experience a crisis during a heat wave in 1976 when the father, Robert, goes out for his daily newspaper and disappears without a trace. The family of grown children gather around Gretta Riordan in response. Robert recently retired from his job in a bank and had shown no signs suggesting abandoning them. The children seem fairly typical. MichaelFrancis is a high school history teacher; he and wife Claire have two young children. Monica, recently divorced, has moved to Gloustershire with Peter and stepchildren Jessica and Flo. The youngest, Aoife, moved to New York and appears estranged from the rest. She returns to help with the crisis.

Far from typical, the children have deep secrets and severe dysfunctions. MichaelFrancis's ambitions to acquire a Ph.d and become a university professor in America were thwarted when his fiance becomes pregnant. Claire had to drop out of college and is frustrated by failing to complete her education. Monica had a pregnancy disaster (it is hinted was self-induced) and subsequently her husband Joe left her. Aoife, who is described as behaviorally impossible as an infant and girl, keeps something secret from everyone -- she is severely dyslexic and nearly totally unable to read. MichaelFrancis and Claire's marriage is crumbling; she has decided to embark on study at an Open University Her dramatic new life changes worry him. Further, he is guilt-ridden about a one-time dalliance he had with a teacher colleague that she is aware of. Monica is bitterly estranged from Aoife who, she thinks, told Joe about her purposeful miscarriage causing him to leave her. Monica also creuelly blames Aoife's disruptive childhood as the cause for Gretta's instability (she is a heavy user of mood altering prescriptions). Monica is disenchanted in her new marriage, particularly dealing with the hostile stepchildren. Aoife is scraping by in New York. She has become an unpaid photographer's assistant who has been covering up her complete neglect of her administrative duties due to her disability. Aoife has met Gabe, a draft dodger, who she falls in love with. Gabe expressed his love for her in writing which she did not comprehend and now that relationship is fading.

Gretta is deeply tied to Catholic values, but she reveals a startling part of her history that shocks her children. Robert's brother, Frankie, was said to have been killed during the "Troubles", but Gretta confesses that Frankie ran off with Robert's bride, Sadie, who later disappeared. The children uncover years-long payments to a convent near their Irish village where Frankie, now an invalid, may be living. Gretta tells the children that because Robert was married to Sadie, a union that was never dissolved, he and Gretta could not get married. The children are outraged that their ultra -Catholic mother has been lying and their births were illegitimate.

The family believes that Robert may have gone to Ireland to visit Frankie. They embark on a trip to their cottage home in the west of Ireland where Gretta finds Frankie in the last days of his life at the convent. The carthesis of all these stunning revelations causes the family to reconcile their differences. Monica sees that Aoife could not have revealed her aborted pregnancy. She determines that her marriage to Peter just will not work. MichaelFrancis and Claire reach the brink of separating, but realize that this should not be so. Aoife reveals to Gabe that the reason she seemed to reject him was due to her problems with reading. She will return to New York to be with him. At the conclusion, Robert is seen walking on the path toward their cottage.

The writing, as with O'Farrell's previous work, is exquisite. Now, after having read "Hamnet", "The Marriage Portrait" and this terrific novel I must add Maggie O'Farrell to my list of favorite writers. ( )
  stevesmits | Dec 21, 2023 |
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Important places
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For S and I and J

and B, of course
First words
The heat, the heat.
Gretta sits herself down at the table. Robert has arranged everythg she needs: a plate, a knife, a bowl with a spoon, a pat of butter, a jar of jam. It is in such small acts of kindness that people know they are loved. (p. 6)
Conversations with his mother can be confusing meanders through a forest of meaning in which nobody has a name and characters drop in and out without warning. (p. 38)
She had that washed, tremulous feeling you get after a bout of crying. Like a London street after the cleaners had been down it; dark, wetted, cleansed. (p. 70)
Strange weather brings out strange behaviour. As a Bunsen burner applied to a crucible will bring about an exchange of electrons, the division of some compounds and the unification of others, so a heatwave will act upon people. It lays them bare, it wears down their guard. They start behaving not unusually but unguardedly. They act not so much out of character but deep within it. (p. 119-120)
Silence, thick as fog, rolls in from the landing. Gretta feels that she could put out her hand and touch its cold form. (p. 201)
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When a recently retired family patriarch clears out his bank account and disappears during a sweltering summer in 1976, his three children converge on their mother's home for the first time in years and track clues to an ancestral village in Ireland, where they uncover illuminating family secrets.

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