Lightweight saga with little storyline or pace, this reads as a series of character portraits with a strong whiff of self absorption (in a heat wave that's something of a mirage). Disappointing confirmation Maggie's forte is hamming up emotionally-precious young women.
I love Maggie O'Farrell's style, and 'Instructions for a heatwave' lived up to my expectations. She describes so well the delicate dynamics of family life. Here, the parents are Irish-born but raising their family in North London. Both daughters have flown the nest, and neither is entirely happy with her lot. Aiofe, the younger girl, nurses a terrible shame that threatens her job and her relationship. Monica is uncomfortable as stepmother to a couple of appalling little girls in a house very different to the home of her childhood.
Where has their father gone? He's walked out of the house in the middle of the hottest summer, 1976, and no one knows what's happened to him. This book offers no easy resolutions, and keeps you guessing till the end. So well-observed, so lovingly-drawn, this family draws you in whether they're in Highbury or on the West Coast of Ireland.