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Instructions for a Heatwave

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  14,345 ratings  ·  1,790 reviews
Sophisticated, intelligent, impossible to put down, Maggie O'Farrell's beguiling novels - After You'd Gone, winner of a Betty Trask Award; The Distance Between Us, winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; The Hand That First Held Mine, winner of the Costa Novel Award; and her unforgettable bestseller The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - blend richly textured psychological drama w ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 28th 2013 by Headline Book Publishing (first published 2013)
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3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,345 ratings  ·  1,790 reviews

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Angela M
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

It’s a commonly told story, both in fiction and in real life: a crisis in the family brings siblings back to their childhood home and back to the memories of the past. It’s usually a struggle to sort things out as secrets and resentments unfold. However, there is nothing common about how Maggie O’Farrell draws you into the lives of her characters in this drama of the Riordan family. The air is stifling and not just because of the heat wave that London is experiencing in 1976. Gretta is
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
A quiet, solemn novel that sifts through the whys and the wherefores of a father who steps out to buy his morning newspaper and does not return home.  As it slowly soaks in that he is really gone, the mother summons their adult children home.  Ah, the dreaded family conference.  It's odd, too, because Father has always been the dependable one, with Mother being the more mercurial parent.  Meanwhile, the siblings are all dealing with significant problems of their own, and the timing of this famil ...more
Jessica Jeffers
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
A solid, gripping family saga. A thoroughly enjoyable read. One of those books that makes living a joy. Packed with back story and intrigue.

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
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
Apr 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: O'Farrell fans, relationships
First. Before anything else. Thank you Maggie O’Farrell for this (and you’re welcome, anyone else like me who has never got this right either):

“ ‘Mum,’ Aoife says again. ‘It’s me.’


It strikes Aoife in that moment that her mother is the only one who can properly pronounce her name. The only person in whose mouth it sounds as it should. Her accent—still unmistakably Galway, after all these years—strikes the first syllable with a sound that is halfway between
E and A , and the second
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
4.5 ⭐ Que bonita historia de nuevo sobre los miembros de una familia, me ha gustado mucho. Quiero más O’Farrell books! ...more
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars, rounded up
This is yet another book that is well-written and has all the ingredients for a great read but fell a little short. I enjoy novels featuring family dramas, dysfunctional families and complicated sibling relationships. This book has all that in spades.

When their father, Robert, disappears, the adult Riordan children gather in their hometown, and with Gretta, their mother, try to piece together the clues and find him. Along the way, long-held family secrets are revealed, and m
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[4+] Maggie O'Farrell's exquisite writing held me captive in this novel about a family in search for their father. She is so skillful at exposing the essence of family dynamics. The three adult children have a complex history with each other - each of them is flawed and at times difficult. Yet, I loved spending time with all of them. I was especially intrigued by Aoife.
Betsy Robinson
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked this book about a family and their secrets during the British heatwave of 1976, but I found it heavy and slow. Although it was published in 2013—just three years before the last O’Farrell novel I read, This Must Be the Place, and five years before the magnificent I Am, I Am, I Am which introduced me to O’Farrell—this felt like early work whose style is not yet refined. For my taste, there was just too much of it: too many words; too many serial lists of nouns, adjectives, references; too ...more
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: whittemore-women
Dear Book Club that meets at the library every third Wednesday (which means in two days),

I am really sorry. I can't do it. I can't afford to read anything that I don't love/like/enjoy anymore. This definitely does not fit that requirement. I hear myself sighing loudly each time I pick this up. I got to page 110. I'm so sorry, Book Club. I know I DNF-ed 4 selections in the past year, but these books (Miss Timmins' School for Girls, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, Clara and Mr. Tiffany, and now this
Dale Harcombe
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hard for those of us who live in Australia, are used to extreme heart and who have seen droughts go on for years, to imagine England in the middle of a heatwave and drought. But that is the scene in 1976 and it it’s based on real events. Into that too real situation in London recently retired Robert Riordan, formally of Ireland, tells his wife Gretta he is going to buy a paper. When he does not come back Gretta calls together their adult children consisting of Michael Francis, and Monica and Aoi ...more
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 03, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Susan Johnson
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Fiona Robson
Jun 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
“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 -
Jacki (Julia Flyte)
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Larry H
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book surprised and charmed me far more than I expected it would.

London, 1976. The country is in the middle of a legendary heatwave, and the drought and mandated water restrictions have everyone on edge. One morning Gretta Riordan's husband, Robert, goes to get his newspaper, just like he does every morning since his retirement. Yet this time he doesn't come back, and he empties out his bank account on the way.

Gretta, a loud, emotional woman, has never met a crisis she couldn't wring for dra
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
Anna Casanovas
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Instrucciones para una ola de calor" transcurre en los años 70 en Inglaterra cuando como indica el título hubo una ola de calor. Es la historia de una familia y de un secreto, pero no está contada como tal, sino que mediante retratos de personajes y de escenas entre ellos es el lector es que va colocando cada pieza donde corresponde. Maggie O'Farrell es sencillamente una narradora brillante.
La novela empieza un día cualquiera cuando Robert, un señor jubilado, se va de casa sin más. Su esposa Gr
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Martin Warner
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book was okay and, being half Irish I could identify with the family based interactions prevalent throughout.

It was an enjoyable yarn but Maggie O'Farrell needs to research a bit better next time she decides to write a book that is not set in the present...the mistakes made were numerous and easy to avoid.


Robert's brother was alluded to as 'having died in the Troubles - before we were born'. This is mentioned by Michael Francis, who, as it turns out, was born in the forties (more of
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book club read for me and I absolutely loved it.

It’s a family drama set in London during a heatwave in 1976. It evoked the period so perfectly. All the wonderful expressions from the time that Maggie O’Farrell weaves through this story reminded me of my grandmother.

The language was beautiful. The characters were all flawed, but likeable. The four narrative strands are deftly managed, adding so much depth and richness to the story. The thing I loved most about this book was the way th
Jul 01, 2015 marked it as to-be-considered
posted on July 1 2015;
re-posted on Aug. 26 2015.

Maybe this Book will help.

It's time we change the climate change back, folks!

Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Instrucciones para una ola de calor llegó en un momento en que estaba un poco abrumada con mis lecturas pendientes y buscaba algo que me atrapase, esta historia de Maggie OFarrell lo ha conseguido a la perfección, la forma en la que construye unos personajes terriblemente imperfectos, que tejen y a la vez se ven atrapados por la telaraña de una sofocante vida familiar, la presencia de fantasmas del pasado, de errores y de secretos inconfesables te atrapa totalmente. Es total y absolutamente una ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Somehow I have arrived late in 2018 without having read Maggie O'Farrell. I have, and keep meaning to read, her The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, but somehow it keeps not quite getting far enough up the quarterly list to actually get read. I enjoyed this title enough that I'll try harder to get Esme Lennox in front of my eyes.

My biggest complaint was with the name of the character Aiofe. I didn't know how to pronounce it, and it slowed me down every time I saw it. In fact, the pronunciation was
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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.
“Why is it that twenty-four hours in the company of your family is capable of reducing you to a teenager?” 12 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.” 8 likes
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