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Instructions for a Heatwave Hardcover – Deckle Edge


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Instructions for a Heatwave + The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox + After You'd Gone
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (June 18, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385349408
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385349406
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

It is July 1976, and London is in the grip of an intense heatwave. All over the city, people are coming unhinged, and the Riordans are no exception. Retired banker Robert has left to buy a newspaper and never returns. His wife, Gretta, calls their three children, who converge on the family homestead for the first time in years. Michael Francis, full of regrets for the decisions he has made, is worried sick that his marriage is over; uptight Monica, trapped in a second marriage with two stepchildren who hate her, is not speaking to the younger sister she practically raised; and Aoife, who has taken herself off to Manhattan but cannot outrun the dyslexia that has made her working life a virtual hell. As the siblings seek out clues to the whereabouts of their father, O’Farrell, in her sixth novel, draws a beautiful portrait of family life. The story really blossoms in the second half, when the Riordans end their search in Ireland, where the family’s secrets and private feuds come raging forth so that the true healing can begin. --Joanne Wilkinson

Review

Praise for Instructions for a Heat Wave:
 
“Smart and provocative . . . O’Farrell has made her mark by combining the elements of good old-fashioned drama with a modern lightness of touch in language and a deft freedom in moving her narratives forward through juxtaposition rather than linear plotting . . . Over and over, she tries to work out who people really are, how ordinary lives can conceal extraordinary stories.”
            –The New York Times Book Review
 
“Searing . . . Astonishing . . . Perhaps a perfect book . . . Full of unforgettable players . . . Instructions for a Heatwave is never dull, never unconvincing, proceeding at a stately and crisp speed through a fully rendered world, grappling at all times and in an original way with the fascinating problems of our time, rushing head-long—and yet staggering almost drunkenly when necessary—towards a stirring and wondrous conclusion.”
            –Los Angeles Review of Books
 
 “Maggie O’Farrell has written my favorite kind of novel: big-hearted, psychologically complex, and utterly gripping from page one. Her spare and subtle prose yields a narrative of extraordinary power. Instructions for a Heatwave is a quiet masterpiece, one I’ll be recommending for years to come.”
            –Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette
 
Instructions for a Heatwave is a thoroughly engrossing and suspenseful novel about an Irish family and its disparate members coming together one unbearably hot summer. Their mission is to find a father who has wandered off. Their unspoken mission is to rediscover and forgive each other for a lifetime of slights and betrayals, real and imagined. O’Farrell, in this beautifully-written tale, gets the psychological nuances just right.”
            –Anita Shreve
 
“A rich, barbed interplay among siblings, who gibe, snap, and snipe as they go through their father's things, slowly teasing out one another's long-buried secrets—and a few of Gretta’s and Robert’s, too.” 
            –Entertainment Weekly, Grade: A- 
 
“Beneath the shouting, O’Farrell can convey the slightest ‘wrinkle in the atmosphere.’”
            –The New Yorker
 
“O’Farrell should be a household name.”
            –Library Journal
 
“Superlative . . . A reunion of far-flung siblings for a Mike Leigh-style extravaganza of reckonings and reconciliations.”
            –Vogue
 
“A piercing portrait of a family falling apart and coming together again.”
            –Good Housekeeping
 
“Big-hearted . . . Assured . . . O’Farrell is deft at delineating character, to the extent that by the end of the novel, the reader feels on intimate terms with everyone involved . . . It might sound a little grand to wax lyrical about ‘the power of the novel’ and all that, but you know, there is such a thing, and this book taps into it . . . Well worth seeking out.”
            –PopMatters
 
“A psychological drama of the first order . . . Instructions for a Heatwave is a prescription for healing—and forgiving—the rifts and dysfunctions of complicated family life. Brimming with wit, wisdom, and wonderful writing, it deserves a wide readership.”
            –Examiner.com
 
“O’Farrell skillfully navigates between past and present, as family secrets are revealed and old grudges are hashed out, without ever losing the narrative’s pace. An absorbing read from start to finish, though O’Farrell’s vibrant prose, each character comes alive as more is revealed and the novel unfolds.”
            –Publishers Weekly
 
“Thoughtful, expressive . . . Heatwave celebrates the particularly maddening and recognizable ways a family can shape us.”
            –Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
 
“An Irish family saga, replete with secrets, rivalries, and misbehavior becomes a compelling and entertaining story in Maggie O’Farrell’s hands . . . O’Farrell takes readers on journeys interior and exterior—recounted in flawless prose that will have you reading while strap-hanging, standing in line, or waiting at a stop light.”
            –Shelf Awareness
 
“Riveting . . . Finely drawn . . . Once again, O’Farrell demonstrates her mastery at depicting strained relationships, skewed family loyalties, and the just reachable light at the end of the tunnel.”
            –Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“A sizzling family dynamic radiates off the pages of this novel.”
            –EW.com, “The Must List”
 
“A beautiful portrait of family life. The story really blossoms in the second half . . . where the family’s secrets and private feuds come raging forth so that the true healing can begin.”
            –Booklist
 
“Lyrical . . . vivid . . . The power and resonance of the book is the journey the family members take during this scorching period in time . . . Read Instructions for a Heatwave and see if these characters, this family, with their secrets and insanity, don’t seep into your bones like the hot summer sun.”
            –My Shelf Confessions
 
“A story of self-discovery and coming to terms with the truths that are ever present in our lives . . . It’s one of those rare books that balances each narrative device, plot point, and character perfectly, such that readers will be absolutely mesmerized by this book from beginning to end.”
            –S. Krishna’s Books
 
 “Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave is just the kind of family drama I love: Nobody gets off easy in it, but everybody gets treated with compassion. It’s stylish, funny, smart and skillfully written, and I could not put it down.”
            –Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins 
 
“A beautifully written and perfectly observed story of family, secrets, and forgiveness. Instructions for a Heatwave is an absolute gem. It’s the kind of novel that you want to devour and savor at the same time.”
           –Courtney Sullivan
 
 “Acutely observed…revelatory, redemptive, and moving…There is a deliciousness to this novel, a warmth and readability that render it unputdownable and will surely make it a hit. O’Farrell has done it again.”
            –Joanna Briscoe, The Guardian
 
“An accomplished and addictive story told with real humanity, warmth, and infectious love for the characters. Highly recommended.”
            –Viv Groskop, The Observer
 
“A literary event…evocative, articulate, and joyously readable…O’Farrell’s talent for drawing intriguing but relatable characters is eclipsed only by a rare gift for description that is almost photographic in its imagery…An author at the top of her game.”
            –Charlotte Heathcote, The Sunday Express
 
“Humorous, humane, and perceptive…O’Farrell depicts relationships with piercing acuity in haunting, intense prose…a deliciously insightful writer…Her sharp but humane eye dissects every form of human interaction.”
            –Leyla Sanai, The Independent on Sunday
 
 “Elegant, lyrical, and subtle…O’Farell’s a compassionate writer, showing us every member of the family from a variety of viewpoints, ensuring that we understand and feel for every one of them even as they drive each other mad…The Riordans will stay in your mind long after you finish reading this book. They’re funny, infuriating, and impossible not to love. They feel like family.”
            –Anna Carey, The Irish Times
 
“Thoroughly absorbing and beautifully written…A novel about what we say and what other people hear; about families; what we don’t tell each other and...

More About the Author

MAGGIE O'FARRELL is the author of four previous novels, including the acclaimed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, which was a B&N Recommends Pick, and After You'd Gone. Born in Northern Ireland in 1972, O'Farrell grew up in Wales and Scotland. She has two children.

Customer Reviews

Very well written and an Enjoyable read.
Ellen Shapiro
As it is, I didn't much care about the characters or the unsatisfactory ending.
Fifth Avenue
Ms. O'Farrell creates such likable yet flawed characters.
momanem35

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Julia Flyte TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
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 is endlessly puzzling and fascinating.

I don't know if Maggie O'Farrell is an only child (her biography does not disclose this information), but one of the things that I love about her as a writer is the way she explores families and the complicated relationship between siblings (look no further than The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox). This is another book about family dynamics, with the plot playing almost a secondary role to the relationships between the siblings and their parents.

It's set in England in 1976. Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he's going out to buy a newspaper and doesn't come back. The three children return home to support their mother and assist with the search. Michael Francis comes from across town, Monica comes up from London and Aoife (pronounced EE-fah) flies home from New York where she has been living for 8 years. All of the children are dealing with their own issues: marriage problems, long held grudges, tightly held secrets. And Gretta is also nursing her own secrets. Maggie O'Farrell is such a wonderful writer and the characters really come to life.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By momanem35 on April 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I love Maggie O'Farrell, and was very excited when I found out she had a new book coming out. But I absolutely could not wait for the scheduled June release in the U.S. Thank you, Amazon UK!

This is probably Ms. O'Farrell's most mature offering. Not that her previous books had been even remotely adolescent. Far from it. But this story flowed much more easily than her earlier works. I almost miss the disjointed changes in perspective and person from her earlier books, but then the easy flow of this novel would have been lost.

The story itself takes place over one weekend, and as the focus switches from one character to the other, we see their flashbacks which fill in why they are at odds with each other. As always, there is one (or more) dark secret(s) being kept by one or more of the main characters.

The story is all told in the third person, alternating between Gretta, whose husband just disappeared one hot morning, and her three grown children when they all come together to try to figure out what happened to him. Ms. O'Farrell creates such likable yet flawed characters. As they tiptoe around their secrets and grudges, and finally reveal all, you can't help wanting to know that everything will work out for them. Ms. O'Farrell has never been one to give a definite ending to any of her stories, leaving the reader to imagine the ultimate outcome, but this story in particular left me wanting a happily ever after for everyone. They all carried so much baggage for so long, and it was such a relief when they finally let it go, that despite their seeming insurmountable differences, it would be such a waste for them not to be able to work everything out and have everything they want.

Yet as much as I enjoyed the story, it did feel as part of it was missing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Almost as though in reference to the title of her best novel, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX (2006), Maggie O'Farrell's new one begins with a disappearance. One morning in 1976, in the midst of a heatwave, retired bank manager Robert Riordan, after laying breakfast for his wife Gretta, leaves their North London house, draws some money from his bank, and does not return. Within a day, their three grown children have all returned home to help their mother handle the crisis: Michael Francis from his house a few miles away, where he lives with his wife and two young children; Monica from a farm in Gloucestershire, where she lives with her second husband and, at weekends, his two children; and Aoife*, the youngest, from New York, where she is single with a boyfriend. Thus O'Farrell lays the groundwork for a book about family dynamics, not only Gretta, the absent Robert, and their grown children, but also the individual situations of the offspring, who will each confront and largely resolve their own personal crises over the four-day span of the novel. At this level, it is an extraordinarily well-constructed and heart-warming read.

Michael Francis is a bored high-school history teacher, who has had to give up his dreams of getting a PhD and becoming a professor, a circumstance that has cast a shadow over his marriage to his wife, Claire. Monica has gone from a failed first marriage to wed an antique dealer in the country, but has never felt at home in his deliberately unmodernized farmhouse or with his two girls.
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