Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell won the Costa Novel award for her last book “The hand that first held mine”. This is her sixth book, ” an intimate portrait of a family in crisis, and the work of an outstanding novelist at the height of her powers”. The meeting will be held at 5pm on Tuesday 4th March

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2 Responses to Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

  1. think they all felt oppressed in one way or another
    Gretta had unmarried status hanging over her
    The father had the secret of his brother
    Michael Francis was not sharing his life with his true love
    Monica was dealing with the angst of her lost pregnancy
    Aoife her illiteracy

    I noticed that the female names all ended with or sounded like they ended in “a” Gretta, Monica, Aoife, Vita, even Gina. The only name that didn’t is Claire…….was this deliberately trying to alienate the reader from her?

    Gretta was striving to control everything and keep everything as it had always been, she decided that despite the ferociously hot weather and her husband going missing she was going to make bread as she had done everyday of her married life (pseudo married life)

    Michael Francis I was interested that he was angrily glad that he hadnt used a condom particularly “next morning at breakfast he was still glad as she sat there irreproachable in a spritzed summer dress” (p27)
    although he was marrying her he knew she wasn’t the one he was meant to marry, he wanted to sleep with everyone then go to America, this wasn’t part of the plan. (P28), I wonder was this just the over active mind of a young man or was it how he really felt.
    By page 31 there have already been two references to “and for a moment, completely the person he is meant to be” which means there are only snippets of time when he is truly himself….very sad. By the end of the book he just wanted to be in the family unit. He still loved Gina but I think he realised the importance of what he had in the shape of his family unit.

    Monica i think she had middle child syndrome, always helping Gretta, then although in an unhappy second marriage she made herself up before peter would come home. Although edgy with the kids she still bought the cat shaped cookie cutter (p42) and was baking with the girls. Was she traumatised by witnessing Gretta in labour! I’m not so sure. I think she never knew how to just be herself.

    Aoife I believe she would have been a free spirit even if she didn’t have reading difficulties as she was very young and not of reading age when it was noted that she had a quirky view on mundane matters, she was also very much like her mother, uninhibited (Gretta sharing cookies etc with other mums). Although driven mad by her mother she purposely brushed her arm against the fox fur around the lady’s neck getting on the train, she also felt the need to gently feel the softness of the peach, little Vita was also shaping up nicely to follow in the footsteps of both Gretta and Aoife.

    I laughed out loud when it dawned on Michael Francis that it would be his role to teach his son how to shave (I can’t find the line in the book but it was only a brief mention)

    This comment was sent by Deborah Matthews who cannot attend the meeting on Tuesday. Thanks Deborah, you have given us lots to think about.

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