Instructions for a heatwaveThis brilliant new novel from Maggie O’Farrell is a portrait of an Irish family in crisis in the legendary heatwave of 1976. 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 wih 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.
O’Farrell slowly develops the characters so much so that you feel you are in the room with them and the interactions with the siblings as they search for their father are wonderfully portrayed. She nails the elements of the heatwave, 1976 and Ireland perfectly and in doing so reminds us of how society then dealt with issues we now treat as standard: divorce, affairs, or dyslexia. I have read all of O’Farrell’s novels and would go so far to say that this is her best to date.
Tinder Press/ 9780755358786/£18.99
Sheila O’Reilly