Book Review: Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

One day during an intense heatwave in London in 1976, Robert Riordan pops out for a newspaper but he never returns. His disappearance forces his estranged family to come together to find him. Robert, a recently retired, happy father of three adult children shows no signs to his wife, Gretta he is unhappy or considering disappearing. Gretta is a devoted mother but slightly eccentric. His son, Michael is a history teacher facing divorce because his wife has found herself and new friends. His eldest daughter, Monica is experiencing marriage problems while his youngest child, Aoife has exiled herself in New York and is very much out of sight, out of mind.

O’Farrell establishes four narratives to take you on the search for the missing father which could have resulted in a confusing and tangled web of storylines but O’Farrell created well-developed characters each with a unique voice and personality. The characters are struggling to manage their own problems while dealing with the issue which united them. Gretta seems strangely happy that her family rallied to her side while her children are preoccupied with life. Michael is rather angered at his lack of professional success. Monica’s husband’s children have made their dislike of Monica apparent. Aiofe is trying to hid either her illiteracy or dyslexia whilst maintaining her feud with Monica.

The central plot, for me, wasn’t anything special and I felt very little attention was paid to Robert’s disappearance, the event which brings the family together but I think this was deliberate on the part of O’Farrell. I felt this gave the book a little bit of mystery, is he genuinely missing or was the disappearance a ploy to reunite his children. I felt the character’s personal stories were engrossing and soon the disappearance became a distant memory because I wanted to understand the characters. This book is a real page turner, I couldn’t wait to read the book and find out their secrets.

I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s fantastic and I found impossible to put down, I read it in one night!

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