Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats
Sunday, March 2, 2014
"Instructions for a Heatwave" by Maggie O'Farrell
My sweet husband gave this book to me for my birthday. We were spending a lovely afternoon browsing at The Book People in Austin (if you have a chance to visit them, you should!) and he came to me holding this and The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and asked me to pick one. I told him that was like Sophie's Choice and he bought me both. He's the best!
As usual I've become distracted from my purpose, which is to tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I started it Friday night. I'd just finished with a different book and wanted to read a few pages of something new before drifting off to sleep. So I plucked this beautiful, luscious-looking hardcover from my Future Reads shelf . . . and read 70 pages. And though it can take me weeks to finish a book these days, here it is Sunday afternoon and I've already turned the last page.
My husband and I had both previously read (and loved) O'Farrell's After You'd Gone, and ever since, I've been intending to read something else of hers. (As well as thoroughly intending to pick up AYG again at some point.) Tops on my list was The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, after reading about it here, but as I hadn't been proactive enough to procure a copy of that one yet, Heatwave squeezed its way in front.
I kind of love this book's dust jacket, and I must say I much prefer its look to this cover, but what's inside is even better. From a limited perspective the story might be viewed as your run-of-the-mill window on a slightly dysfunctional family--one of many books that may differ in details but is really just a re-telling of the same old story. The general premise, though interesting, is not in itself earth-shattering: three grown siblings, Irish by birth but raised in London, are brought back together when their father disappears. But this over-simplification does not do the book justice. It is borne above the crowd by the triumvirate of excellent writing, indelible characters with an invigorating synergy, and the draw of secrets. Because it's not just about the disappearance of the father. Within that larger mystery are wrapped countless smaller ones, each just as intriguing as the last. If I had three thumbs, they would all be pointing up: one to say this book is a keeper, one to say I would re-read it, and one to say I can heartily recommend it to you--after two caveats: first, you may want to look up the pronunciation of the name Aoife before you start reading. Unless you're Irish, in which case you probably already know it. (The pronunciation is described in the book, but if you're as impatient as me, you may find it's not soon enough.) And second: be prepared for the disappointment of never knowing what Gabe wrote at the airport. Unless it's one of those things that's obvious to everyone but me, in which case you'll probably figure it out on your own. (And when you do, please tell me!)