Instructions for a Heatwave, by Maggie O’Farrell

I received ‘Instructions for a Heatwave’ as a birthday present, however, had I not, I probably would have bought it anyway as I had picked it up a few times in bookshops. It seems everywhere at the moment. The blurb on the back drew me in. The premise is that husband, Robert, went out for the morning paper and then did not return. A day which started so ordinarily was then turned on its head.

However, this book was not particularly a mystery focused upon where Robert had gone. That was of course an importance feature, but his disappearance was mainly a plot device to bring together a rifted family which had been dispersed across different places.

Instructions for a Heatwave is a book about relationships, about families. Robert’s wife, Gretta and their grown up children. Their eldest, Michael Francis, is also experiencing a crisis with his own family. While Monica, is unhappy with a new husband and step children who hate her, living in a house which doesn’t feel like her own. Aoife is the youngest, labelled a problem child, who fled to New York after a disagreement with Monica. None of the characters were perfect, they all made mistakes and at sometimes each of them was a bit annoying, but they seemed real. The family was slightly dysfunctional, but above all they seemed rather normal, which made them easy to relate them.

The setting is quite interesting, the heat wave accounts for the peculiar behaviour of some of the characters. It allowed the very ordinary Robert to disappear without letting anyone know. It lead to family truths being revealed and forced the siblings to address their problems.

It was a good read, and I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys books about psychology and relationships.

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