Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

2013 Tinder Press edition (image: goodreads.com)
2013 Tinder Press edition (image: goodreads.com)

Instructions For A Heatwave is the sixth novel from the extremely popular Maggie O’Farrell, one of the titles from new imprint Tinder Press, and the first of her books I have read. O’Farrell was yet another one of those authors I had always heard good things about but for some reason had never actually read. To be honest I think part of the reason for that was because all the covers of her previous novels were a bit girly and swirly and pink, and that put me off a bit. They were clearly romantic and emotional and while that isn’t bad, they just seemed a bit fluffy. Think of that what you will.

Tinder Press is a new imprint from Headline, with all of its little collection of new titles coming out in 2013. The catalogue is beautiful, consisting of a set of postcards with the details of each book on them. Firstly the cover of Instructions For A Heatwave got my attention – it is generally rather pleasing, but also, crucially, looked modern and intelligent, probably because it doesn’t look like a cover I’ve seen before. The plot description was simple but also very appealing – a husband and father walks out on his family for no apparent reason; the estranged children come back to their mother, and secrets and drama unfold. Knowing O’Farrell’s reputation but never having taken the plunge with her, I was intrigued, and requested a copy.

I’m not going to say too much about this novel. From the start I loved O’Farrell’s writing; simple and honest, but beautiful too. I particularly liked the way she shifted perspective from one character to another within one scene, so elegant and smooth, so easy and graceful that you barely notice and when you do you are impressed and pleased. Her descriptions – of people, moods, emotions, thoughts and particularly places – are exceptionally beautiful and well thought out. Nothing here is generic or cliched.

Aoife flips a page over, realises that she hates this photographer’s work, that she met the man once and he was an arrogant pig. She eyes the long form of her brother [lying on the floor].

‘You OK?’ she says.

‘Mmmnnng,’ Michael Francis says, or thereabouts.

His face is pressed to the rag rug in what was once his sisters’ bedroom. It is, he suddenly sees, the best place in the world to be.

Those of you who have read her previous work probably know this, but O’Farrell really does understand all the complexities held within families. We feel a vast sum of emotions towards each family member and our history is always, always present, no matter how deep down or far back. O’Farrell lays everything bare; she is unafraid of the truths of family relationships, no matter how difficult. The relationships between siblings I found particularly moving and expertly crafted. Youngest (and most ‘difficult’) sibling Aoife, I fell in love with.

I did not want to reach the end of this book. It is one of the few I have awarded five stars on GoodReads, and I am certainly going to read more of O’Farrell’s work. I am so, so happy I chose this book – shows just how important covers are! Seen opaquely, the end could be thought of as a little too neat; but really there are a lot of questions still unanswered. You are left pondering it all for a long time after the book is closed.

*

Published in hardback in February 2013 by Tinder Press. My copy was kindly provided by the publisher for review.

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5 thoughts on “Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell”

  1. I agree. You are in for a treat. I loved “The Hand that First Held Mine.” I read it in hardback when it first came out, and fell in love with many of the characters… I can’t wait to get my hands on ‘The Heatwave.’

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