12 Books of Christmas – #3 Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell

ImageDespite intending to, I had never read a Maggie O’Farrell book before ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ but after reading the blurb about this book months before publication, I couldn’t wait to read it – and I wasn’t disapointed when I finally got my hands on a copy.  ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ is a novel about the Irish Riordan family coping with the disappearance of head of the family Robert during the 1976 heatwave.  The book, however, is neither really about Robert or the heatwave, but the three grown-up siblings, Michael, Monica and Aoife and their often distracting but well meaning mother Gretta.  Robert’s disappearance coupled with unrelenting and overwhelming heat acts as a catalyst in forcing each member of the family to deal with the problems they are so desperate to ignore.  Eldest and golden child Michael feels that he and his wife are trapped by their children into a life they didn’t plan. Stuck in the middle Monica is scared her second marriage will fail because her step-children seem to dislike her.  Youngest Aoife has fled New York because she fears her illiteracy is about to be uncovered ruining both her career and relationship.   Finally, and quietly, good Catholic Irish mother and wife Gretta is afraid that her wild youth is about to be uncovered and the image of the woman she has built up to her children and neighbours could be ruined.  Although all of the Riordans can come across as utterly self absorbed and plain irritating at times, you can’t help but root for a happy outcome (particularly Aoife coping with her dyslexia) and it goes to show that even a rather simple plot can create some wonderfully complex yet completely relatable and memorable characters.

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