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Mysterious and impossible to put down, Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave blends the everyday with the abnormal.
It may sound odd but stories about realistic characters are surprisingly rare to come across in the fictional world. I read Normal People by Sally Rooney earlier this year and fell in love with it because it was, as the title would suggest, purely about normal people. And Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave is another delightful book that features an entire cast of normal, flawed, characters that you can’t help but to relate to, and fall in love with.
Plus, with the colder weather rolling in, Instructions for a Heatwave is ideal for anyone looking for a throwback to the summer. A Sunday Times Bestseller, the novel is set during the 1976 heatwave and tells the story of a dysfunctional family, reunited in the face of tragedy.
She doesn't like sitting about, no matter what is wrong in life. It does you good to have something ahead of you, regardless how small.”
Instructions for a Heatwave: Synopsis
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.
Each character is as refreshingly flawed as each other, making them wholesome and realistic, which in turn makes the story itself more engaging as you quickly become invested in their stories, both past and present. Interlaced with humour throughout, each character brings a different dynamic (and their own burdens) to the overriding issue of the novel – the disappearance of Robert.
Surprisingly, even though the book shifts between four narratives, O’Farrell’s writing is so wonderful that the story never becomes confusing and it’s easy to tell which character is taking the helm.
In fact, perhaps the only complaint for this novel is the slightly inconclusive ending. I’m not a big fan of open-ended novels and while it is somewhat necessary for this novel (not to mention that it continues the realistic element that runs throughout), I still found it slightly frustrating.
Odd that your life can contain such significant tripwires to your future and, even while you wander through them, you have no idea.”
On the whole, however, I wasn’t left with too many unanswered questions and the story is so poetically written that it can be somewhat forgiven for not tying absolutely everything up neatly at the end.
In short, read this if you’re looking for a story about real characters that you can’t help but love. Sprinkled with humour throughout, Instructions for a Heatwave is a relatively easy read and is refreshingly different to many other novels out there. Overall, it's a book that I would have no issue with recommending on.
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