MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Summary and book reviews of Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell

Instructions for a Heatwave

by Maggie O'Farrell

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell X
Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2013, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2014, 304 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Sophisticated, intelligent, impossible to put down, Maggie O'Farrell's beguiling novels 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.

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.

Highbury, London

The heat, the heat. It wakes Gretta just after dawn, propelling her from the bed and down the stairs. It inhabits the house like a guest who has outstayed his welcome: it lies along corridors, it circles around curtains, it lolls heavily on sofas and chairs. The air in the kitchen is like a solid entity filling the space, pushing Gretta down into the floor, against the side of the table.

Only she would choose to bake bread in such weather.

Consider her now, yanking open the oven and grimacing in its scorching blast as she pulls out the bread tin. She is in her nightdress, hair still wound onto curlers. She takes two steps backwards and tips the steaming loaf into the sink, the weight of it reminding her, as it always does, of a baby, a newborn, the packed, damp warmth of it.

She has made soda bread three times a week for her entire married life. She is not about to let a little thing like a heatwave get in the way of that. Of course, living in London, it is...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The weather referenced in the novel's title refers to the setting but also takes on symbolic or metaphorical significance. O'Farrell writes that "strange weather brings out strange behavior . . . [People] start behaving . . . not so much out of character but deep within it" (p. 103). What does she mean by this? Where do we see examples of this among the characters? How does the heat enhance or mirror the psychological drama of the story?

  2. Consider the various examples of siblings in the story. What are their relationships like? Are there many similarities among their relationships? Are the siblings very alike as characters? What problems or tensions are evident among them, and what causes this?

  3. In the opening scenes of ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for a year or $39 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Maggie O'Farrell's investigation of the three characters, all related by blood but astoundingly different, creates a vibrant portrait of what it means to create the life you want, versus the life you were conditioned to have...continued

Full Review (871 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

Media Reviews

Vogue
Superlative . . . A reunion of far-flung siblings for a Mike Leigh-style extravaganza of reckonings and reconciliations.

Minneapolis Star Tribune
Riveting . . . Finely drawn . . . Once again, O’Farrell demonstrates her mastery at depicting strained relationships, skewed family loyalties, and the just reachable light at the end of the tunnel.

The Guardian (UK)
Acutely observed…revelatory, redemptive, and moving…There is a deliciousness to this novel, a warmth and readability that render it unputdownable and will surely make it a hit. O'Farrell has done it again.

The Sunday Express (UK)
A literary event…evocative, articulate, and joyously readable…O'Farrell's talent for drawing intriguing but relatable characters is eclipsed only by a rare gift for description that is almost photographic in its imagery…An author at the top of her game.

The Independent on Sunday (UK)
Humorous, humane, and perceptive…O'Farrell depicts relationships with piercing acuity in haunting, intense prose…a deliciously insightful writer…Her sharp but humane eye dissects every form of human interaction.

Daily Mail (UK)
Thoroughly absorbing and beautifully written…A novel about what we say and what other people hear; about families; what we don't tell each other and what we do; the compromises and accommodations we make and what happens when we build our lives around half-truths.

Kirkus Reviews
A skillfully written novel of manners, with quiet domestic drama spiced with fine comic moments. The payoff is priceless, too.

Booklist
A beautiful portrait of family life. The story really blossoms in the second half . . . where the family’s secrets and private feuds come raging forth so that the true healing can begin.

Publishers Weekly
An absorbing read from start to finish, through O'Farrell's vibrant prose, each character comes alive as more is revealed and the novel unfolds.

Library Journal
O'Farrell should be a household name.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

A brilliant read
Instructions For A Heatwave is the sixth novel by British author, Maggie O’Farrell. On a July Thursday at the height of Britain’s 1976 heatwave, Robert Riordan goes out as usual for the morning paper but doesn’t return. When no trace of him can be ...   Read More

Jan Zahrly

Instructions for a Heatwave
Every time I get to the end of a Maggie O'Farrell novel, I want to scream, “More. What happened next?” O'Farrell always leaves me hanging and Instructions for a Heatwave was no exception. This is a family book, about adult children's frustrations,...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for a year or $39 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Maggie O'Farrell

If you liked Instructions for a Heatwave, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for a year or $39 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: How to Pronounce Knife
    How to Pronounce Knife
    by Souvankham Thammavongsa
    Many examples of immigrant fiction dedicate a portion of their storytelling to exploring details of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Easy Part of Impossible
    The Easy Part of Impossible
    by Sarah Tomp
    Teenager Ria Williams is a skilled diver. She is on track to compete at the Olympic level, but ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire in Paradise
    Fire in Paradise
    by Alastair Gee , Dani Anguiano
    On November 8, 2018, a fire started in Northern California's Butte County after 50-70 mph winds ...
  • Book Jacket
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Voted 2018 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Towards the end of Madeline Miller...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Paris Hours
    by Alex George

    One day in the City of Light. One night in search of lost time.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Daughter of the Reich
    by Louise Fein

    A spellbinding story of impossible love set against the backdrop of the Nazi regime.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Henna Artist
by Alka Joshi

The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The Adventurer's Son

The Adventurer's Son

"A brave and marvelous book. A page-turner that will rip your heart out."
--Jon Krakauer

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

B I T T Water

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.