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Instructions for a Heatwave
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Instructions for a Heatwave

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  6,023 ratings  ·  1,073 reviews
The stunning new novel from Costa Award winning novelist Maggie O'Farrell: 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 co...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 28th 2013 by Headline Book Publishing (first published 2013)
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Community Reviews

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Jessica
Why have I not read Maggie O'Farrell before?!

I don't know, 'cause she's gooooood. Like, sit in the bathtub until you're a prune good. Miss your stop on the train good. Refuse to split the driving time on a weekend road trip good.

I may or may not have done all of these things while reading this book.

In all honesty, this is a pretty standard Family in Crisis novel. The basic plot is a rather familiar one: husband leaves one day and doesn't come home, mother requests the presence of her far-flung...more
Bonnie
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
A copy of Instructions for a Heatwave was provided to me by Knopf for review purposes.

'Odd that your life can contain such significant tripwires to your future and, even while you wander through them, you have no idea.'

The story itself starts off at a slow and leisurely pace that doesn't ever quite pick up speed but the writing itself was quite gripping. The characters are also very drab and almost boring but they're written so well that they somehow manage to be intriguin...more
Teresa
For an avid reader nothing quite compares with that thrill you get when you open the pages of a favourite writer's latest novel. Even seeing glowing advance reviews does nothing to temper that underlying apprehension that this one might not tick all the boxes but you would think I'd know by now, 6 novels in, that I can rely on Maggie O'Farrell.

Instructions for a Heatwave is mostly set in London in 1976. The city is in the midst of a searing heatwave and "strange weather brings out strange behavi...more
Sarah
I absolutely loved The Hand That First Held Mine when I read it a couple of years ago. The weaving of stories, the secrets and slow revelations were all so beautifully done. It is a compelling read. So, I absolutely jumped at the chance of a review copy of the new novel from the lovely folk at Tinder Press. I didn't read it straight away, but once I saw all the amazing comments from people that had, I knew it was time to dive in. I read it, and enjoyed it, but didn't immediately connect with it...more
Michelle
I have to start this post by saying that I’m a huge fan of Maggie O’Farrell, and have loved every book. The problem with this is that I’m always worried that the next book will disappoint. However, from the onset, Maggie proves once again what a great story teller she is. She managed to make me feel as if I already knew the characters, whilst at the same time allowing me an insight into the more intimate aspects of their lives.

Whilst you would expect the main emphasis to be on Robert and Gretta,...more
S.A.
This book dithers like an elderly woman pondering what flavor of Cesar dog food to feed to her spoiled schnauzer. It dithers like my last rambling sentence.

The main reason I finished reading the novel was to see if anything mind-blowing actually happened. Hell, I would have settled for nose-blowing or blink-inducing. To me, the huge secret that matriarch Gretta Riordan held back from her children had the strength of a butterfly burp. Perhaps its a culture thing and I'm out of the loop. But to me...more
Dem
3.5 stars

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O Farrell is a very enjoyable and entertaining novel and I was really excited to read this book having loved The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox.

The story is set in London in July 1976. 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 estrange...more
Fiona Robson
“The stunning new novel from Costa-Novel-Award-winning novelist Maggie O'Farrell: 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 -...more
Julia
Recently I heard Kate Atkinson speak at a writer's festival. I am an only child, as is she, and she said something that struck a chord with me. She talked about how she is fascinated by families and the dynamics between siblings. It seems to her that families are a safe place where you can behave worse than you would in any other facet of your life and somehow it is permissible and you will (eventually) be forgiven. When the sibling dynamic is something that you yourself have not experienced, it...more
CeeAnne
Although I really enjoyed other books by this author, especially The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, this story just never grabbed me at all. None of the characters communicated with each other to the point of frustration for the reader. Even though the story was about a missing family member, there was really no suspense or sense of urgency. When the ending came along, well, it just kind of came along. I wasn't particularly concerned about how things would turn out for any of the characters. Alth...more
Carol
Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell took me captive! I love her style of writing, her story and her way of capturing an Irish accent. I haven’t read anything by her before so it is good surprise to find another author that I really enjoy.

Gretta Riordan is suffering through the London heatwave of 1976 by not using the dishwasher and watering her garden. Her children are grown up and living away but all have troubles of their own. She had been married 40 years and her husband said he w...more
Chris Witkowski
It's 1976 and England is experiencing the worst heat wave in decades. Greta Riordan wakes to another stifling July day to discover her husband has disappeared, leaving no hints as to where he might be. She notifies her three children, and they come to her aid, bringing with them all the resentments, hurts, jealousies, and bitterness accumulated from years of living in a family wracked with deep secrets, led by a mother made dotty by crushing disappointments.

This is an engaging novel, with sympa...more
Rebecca Foster
Another spot-on tale of family and romantic relationships – O’Farrell always gets the emotional tenor just right. As with The Hand That First Held Mine, this novel is narrated in the present tense, which I acknowledge can be irksome, but again, here she manages it perfectly; it’s a handy tool for lending a sense of immediacy and reality.

You may spot hints of Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (a family patriarch goes out for a walk but doesn’t come back), All the Beggars Riding...more
Susan
This novel is set during the heatwave of 1976, which I remember very well. Oddly enough, I read the book during recent hot weather, and it made the heat feel even more tangible. The novel centres around the Riordan family. Gretta is the matriarch and, whatever the weather, she bakes soda bread three times a week. Her day starts as normal - she bakes and husband Robert leaves at his usual time to buy a newspapr. He doesn't return...

Robert's disappearance leads to Gretta's grown children rallying...more
Jill
"Strange weather brings strange behavior." In Maggie O’Farrell’s latest book, it does indeed. “As a Bunsen burner applied to a crucible will bring about an exchange of electrons, the division of some compounds and the unification of others, so a heatwave will act upon people. It lays them bare, it wears down their guard.”

It is 1976 and London is in the grip of an historical heatwave. And in the midst of it, Gretta Riordan discovers that her husband of 40 years has gone. Her three adult children...more
Lynda
In my view Maggie O'Fattell has written an uneven spread of novels. Her debut novel After You'd Gone was a ta tantalising atmospheric read with Gothic undertones and The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox was a poignant examination of identity and belonging. The rest have worked less well. Instructions for a Heatwave is somewhere in between. The novel uses the great 1976 heatwave as its framework suggesting that great heat makes people react in different ways and draws things hidden into exposure. O F...more
Karen McMillan
This is an elegant novel from a prize-winning author that captivates from the opening page. Set in 1976 during a heatwave in London it’s about a family in crisis. Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he is going to the store to buy a newspaper – but he never returns. Gretta’s grown-up children return to the family home to help their mother at this difficult time, but they have problems of their own. Michael is on the brink of divorce. Monica still mourns divorcing her first husband, and alt...more
Susan Johnson
The secrets we keep from our families are always the darkest ones, the ones that hurt so much. It is important to look good to our families, to look like we have it together, that we are independent and that we can stand on our own two feet. Of course, that's not true. We need our families to be in our corner, to be our cheerleaders and to lean on.

This story begins with a husband and father who walks out the front door in the morning and doesn't come back. As his three children join their mother...more
Jo
I'm usually a huge fan of Maggie O'Farrell's and have read everything she's written so far. However, Instructions For A Heatwave left me disappointed. I was interested to read of how she came to write the novel and it did seem rather 'contrived' or 'forced'. The plot didn't seem to unfold in a natural way and it wasn't particularly character led. Aoife was my favourite character and by far the most fascinating. I would have like the whole novel to be about her. The missing father seemed like a p...more
Laurel-Rain
In the summer of 1976, during a heatwave that has gripped London, Gretta Riordan's husband Robert goes off one morning on an errand...and disappears.

The event will bring Gretta and Robert's grown children back to the homestead. Michael Francis, from his wife and children; Monica, from the countryside where she lives with her second husband Peter and his two children; and unexpectedly, Aoife, the youngest, who has been living in New York for years.

A convergence of the siblings will resurrect old...more
Shelly Hammond
Having received this book after winning it from a Goodreads giveaway, I was pretty excited to start reading this book since I’d never read anything by this author and the idea of the book sounded very good. I was very pleased, after reading this book, to realize that I may have discovered a new favorite author.

This story takes place over one weekend. This exact weekend in England in the year 1976 during one of the worst historically recorded heat waves. When Robert, the husband of Gretta Riordan...more
Victoria
Though this is the first book by the author that I have read, I already own two of O’Farrell’s previous books after hearing some rave reviews of them. I tend to love Irish literature, so when I saw this title, I eagerly added it to my To-Read pile. This family drama offers the reactions of the Riordan family in the wake of the disappearance of Robert, father of Michael Francis, Monica and Aoife and husband to Gretta. The book immediately engages you and the first day cleanly focuses on each fami...more
Ronna
I got this book free from Firstreads. This is my honest review.

Maggie O'Farrell has constructed a year of almost collapse in one family as the heat spell in 1976, England, wears down everyone and everything in the continuing drought. Thoroughly Irish, Gretta Riordan, has been enjoying her husband's new retirement status, until one day when he walks out with all their money and doesn't return. She's made panic calls to her three grown children, who are all in the middle of their own near disastro...more
Denise
4.0 out of 5 stars - Family meltdown...

This is a novel that will leave you thinking about its characters long after you've turned the last page. If you love to read about family drama through brilliantly complex characters, you will enjoy this one.

London, 1976, is in the middle of a heatwave. Without air conditioning, the inhabitants are starting to feel the effects of the relentless high temperatures and that is reflected in some atypical behavior on the streets, in the workplaces, and most of...more
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
Instructions for a Heat Wave is your basic dysfunctional family novel, set mostly in London but also NY and Ireland.... The Riordan family includes three grown children and the usual pair of parents, except that the Dad goes missing one morning during a heat wave. His disappearance brings the grown children back into their mother's orbit, activating various old family patterns, resentments and secrets. Sometimes I got a little claustrophobic being in such tight quarters with these folks, as did...more
Heather
I won this book from a Goodreads giveaway, thanks Goodreads! I was so excited to get a brand new hardcover book mailed to my house for free.

So I was in a good mood about this book before I read it and that continued for about 2/3 of the book. I thought the writing was excellent and the way that the author shifted between the different characters was very skillful. She focuses on the wife and three adult children of a man who walked away from his life one morning during a heat wave in London in...more
Vanessa Wu
When I started reviewing books publicly I wrote most of my reviews in under ten minutes. That's because I wrote without compunction. I just wrote what I thought without worrying about the writers' feelings.

Then at some point I learned that people were reading my reviews and I slowed down and started to give them more thought. One of the writers in an anthology I reviewed wrote a heart-wrenching public reply that made me almost stop writing altogether. The only positive thing I took from it was...more
Kate
This is a great read. I really want to read other books by Maggie O'Farrell now.
Set in the 1970's in London, the Irish Riordan family are in crisis. Robert, the father of the family, has up and left Gretta, his loving spouse of thirty years, without so much as a word or cryptic explanation, and their adult children; Michael Francis, Monica and Aoife are called home to support Gretta, and to help solve the mystery of Robert's whereabouts.
The characters in this family drama are full and alive. We...more
Mary Lins
"Instructions for a Heatwave" by Maggie O'Farrell, is a wonderfully juicy character study of a deliciously dysfunctional family. It begins during a heat wave in England in 1976 when Gretta's husband of 30 years, Robert, disappears one morning. Their three children, each uniquely flawed, Michael Frances, Monica and Aoilfe, are summoned from their lives elsewhere, to help Gretta cope. What follows in an unfolding of their lives, past and present, and as happens to most of us at one time or another...more
Andrienne
I just recently got this book and I felt that it had the qualities I like in a book so I finished it quickly. It's set in England/New York about an Irish family's life turned upside down when the dad abruptly leaves the family. The mom, Gretta is an overbearing Catholic who may or may not have pushed the dad over to the edge with her controlling ways. The 3 kids are not doing so well: the middle son Michael Francis is struggling with the collapse of his marriage, the oldest daughter Monica is fi...more
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Anne Arundel Coun...: Instructions for a Heatwave 6 48 Aug 23, 2014 11:01PM  
Gender of readership 7 63 Jul 03, 2014 02:16PM  
The Readers: YWTB #1 - Maggie O'Farrell 1 12 Aug 12, 2013 12:14PM  
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Maggie O'Farrell (born 1972, Coleraine Northern Ireland) is a British author of contemporary fiction, who features in Waterstones' 25 Authors for the Future. It is possible to identify several common themes in her novels - the relationship between sisters is one, another is loss and the psychological impact of those losses on the lives of her characters.
More about Maggie O'Farrell...
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox The Hand That First Held Mine After You'd Gone The Distance Between Us My Lover's Lover

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“Why is it that twenty-four hours in the company of your family is capable of reducing you to a teenager?” 7 likes
“Gretta sits herself down at the table. Robert has arranged everything she needs: a plate, a knife, a bowl with a spoon, a pat of butter, a jar of jam. It is in such small acts of kindness that people know they are loved.” 6 likes
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