Maggie O'Farrell - Instructions For a Heatwave (4 stars)

A nostalgic novel with vivid characterisation from Costa Book Award winner O'Farrell

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Maggie O'Farrell - Instructions For a Heatwave

An overheated London is the setting for Costa Book Award winner Maggie O’Farrell’s sixth novel, where Gretta Riordan’s retired husband goes out for a paper one morning and never returns. The subsequent search for their father reunites Gretta’s kids, whose own lives are in varying states of breakdown. Through tight perspective shifts, O’Farrell expertly juggles the predicaments of the three children as she drives towards the terrible secret that will forever change the family’s view of their mother.

The prose zips along and the dialogue is rich, with Gretta’s Anglo-Irish sentiments providing constant comic relief, although more period detail would have evoked greater nostalgia. O’Farrell’s strength lies in the complexity and depth of her characters, each described so vividly you half expect them to sit down next to you and ask what you’re reading. It is an absorbing read, and a genuine affection for the characters develops as the novel races towards its somewhat ambiguous conclusion.

Maggie O'Farrell: Instructions for a Heatwave

The Costa Novel Award-winning author discusses her new book, and signs copies afterwards.

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