Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell has just been published by Tinder Press and is simply wonderful. As I read I had that delicious feeling of sinking into the novel, trusting the story to unfold beautifully, knowing I was in the hands of an expert. The huge difference between short stories and novels is how one can relax with a novel and savour it over a period of time. It becomes something to look forward to in a day, a treat, whereas a short story has to be read in one go – there’s an urgency to it, an immediacy.
Set in July 1976 when the UK was in the midst of a heatwave this tells the story of the Riordans, a family who reunite when Robert Riordan, a retired banker, goes out for his morning paper and doesn’t return.
Festering bad feelings between sisters Aoife and Monica come to a head, their mother, Gretta, a familiar Irish matriarchal type (who reminds me of some of my aunts) reveals long held secrets, son Michael Francis and his wife have a relationship at breaking point, and Aoife has carried a secret of her own all her life. O’Farrell reveals their truths with perfect timing. And oh, the pictures she paints are glorious. Her writing is gorgeous, the words slip by, effortlessly creating images and racking up the tension as if in a thriller.
“The beach and water shimmer and refract in the heat; seaweed dries to rocks; sand cracks and powders in the sun.”
And aren’t you seeing that beach now?