Review: Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O Farrell

Challenge criteria: A book that takes place in summer.


 It’s July 1976. In London, it hasn’t rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back.

The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children — two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce — back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.

Image via Amazon

What I liked:

There was a character called Aoife. Do you know how much of a novelty that is!


Also, the action started on my parent’s anniversary, which I thought was very cute. The date seems to be very popular – it’s the same as appears in One Day.

What I didn’t like: 

The aforementioned Aoife was dyslexic. According to her family, this makes her strange, weird. Reading that made me very uncomfortable – any kind of discrimination against any disability doesn’t sit well with me. Even if it would have been in the zeitgeist for the novel’s 1970s setting.

Aoife was also scorned for having left home and gone travelling, when actually, it’s a very intense and terrifying experience.

Aside from that, though, there weren’t many characters I liked. The children were a bit too nosey, demanding, whatever it was they did I wasn’t on their side for much. The mother was secretive and interfering, typical Irish mammy.

The father didn’t pay too much heed to the family behind him, to the point where at the end of it all I wasn’t too concerned about why he had left in the first place. Claire, the son’s wife, was a miserable creature. The step-kids featured also had lost the run of themselves – if I had done any of their antics, I wouldn’t see the other side of my bedroom door for very long.

Out of five: A very measly two. The story fell in a lot of places, and I wasn’t at all impressed with a lot of the treatment given.

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