Paperback review: Instructions for a Heatwave, By Maggie O'Farrell

Truth bubbles up in slow-burner that's set in a long, hot summer

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The Independent Culture

Maggie O'Farrell's latest novel is set in London during the heatwave of 1976.

One sweltering morning Robert Riordan tells his wife, Gretta, that he is popping out to buy a newspaper – and doesn't come back. When he is sighted in Ireland, Gretta and their children – a son whose marriage is sliding towards divorce and two daughters who haven't spoken since a previous family tragedy – put aside their differences and head off to find him. In a heatwave, the narrator observes, people "act not so much out of character but deep within it", behaving unguardedly. In O'Farrell's slow-burning but beautifully observed study of family relationships, secrets and uncomfortable truths bubble to the surface.