Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell

Instructions for a Heatwave is the first book I read by Maggie O’Farrell, and I think it will be her last. The book, which I started with great expectations and excitement, disappointed me so much that I immediately erased the book from my mind, never remembering it again. That’s why I’m writing this post a few days later.


Instructions for a Heatwave is set in a period of heat that is taking London by storm. It’s not raining, nor is the wind blowing. In summer, there is unbearable heat, and no one in London is used to it. Since water is also insufficient, people begin to show mild personality changes. In such an environment, we are listening to the story of a very mediocre Irish family.

Instructions for a Heatwave - Maggie O'Farrell

There is a housewife mother with three children, an ordinary retired father minding his own business, a daughter with dyslexia, another daughter who craves attention and admires her mother, and a too sensitive boy. Our family is just that. And of course, each of them has their own unique and somewhat boring story. The characters and their stories were so mediocre that I couldn’t feel a drop of closeness to any of them. As you can see, the author caused me a different drought. It also didn’t help at all that while I was waiting for something to happen throughoutInstructions for a Heatwave, nothing much happened.

Anyway, I won’t stray off-topic. The father of the family leaves the house one day and does not return. Family members, who are scattered all over, come together despite all their resentments and fights. They uncover loads of family secrets as they try to figure out where their father is. They fight a little bit and put it up to sleep. So nothing happens. Frankly, I was bored even writing about the book. I cannot recommendInstructions for a Heatwave to anyone. However, in case you succumb to your curiosity and are after reading Irish writers, you can check it out.

Instructions for a Heatwave - Maggie O'Farrell

Instructions for a Heatwave

Instructions for a Heatwave: 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.Instructions for a Heatwave

Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell FRSL (born 27 May 1972) is a Northern Irish/British novelist. Her internationally acclaimed debut novel, After You’d Gone won the Betty Trask Award. A later novel, The Hand That First Held Mine, won the 2010 Costa Novel Award. She has twice been shortlisted since for the Costa Novel Award – for Instructions for a Heatwave in 2014 and This Must Be The Place in 2017. She appeared in Waterstones’ 25 Authors for the Future. Her memoir I am, I am, I am: Seventeen Brushes with Death reached the top of the Sunday Times bestseller list. Her novel Hamnet won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020 and the fiction prize at the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Awards.

O’Farrell’s numerous successful novels, including the Costa-Award-winning The Hand that First Held Mine, have received widespread critical acclaim. Work of hers has been translated into over 30 languages. Her novel Hamnet, based around Shakespeare’s family, was published in 2020. In 2011 she contributed the short story “How the Oak Tree Came to Life” to Why the Willow Weeps, an anthology sold to fund the work of the Woodland Trust, which planted five trees for each copy sold.[10] Her 2017 memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death, deals with a series of near-death experiences that affected her and her children.

O’Farrell is married to fellow novelist William Sutcliffe, whom she met while they were students at Cambridge. They live in Edinburgh with their three children. She has said of Sutcliffe: “Will’s always been my first reader, even before we were a couple, so he’s a huge influence. He’s brutal but you need that.”

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Read Around the World, A Great Journey

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