Come and chat to MAGGIE O'FARRELL about Instructions For a Heatwave (and all her previous books), Weds 23rd Oct, 9-10pm

(115 Posts)

If youre still loath to let go of summer, our October Book of the Month keeps the temperature high. Maggie OFarrells bestseller, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, is set in London, July 1976. The Riordans are an Irish couple with three grown-up children, and as they sit sweltering in their kitchen, Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he's going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn't come back. The search for Robert brings the children - two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce - back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone.

As always, O'Farrell captures daily life with acute observation and empathy while sustaining a gradual suspense that reveals secret histories. Another entrancing and beautifully paced novel from a truly excellent storyteller.

To find out more, go to our book of the month page, where you can also find links to video interviews, Maggie's website and to her previous Mumsnet Bookclub chat back in 2011.

Tinder Press have 50 copies to give to Mumsnetters to claim yours please go to the book of the month page. We'll post on the thread when all the copies have gone.

If you're not lucky enough to bag one of the free books, you can always get your paperback or Kindle version here.

We are thrilled that Maggie will be joining us and answering questions about INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, her writing career and her previous novels on Wednesday 23 October, 9-10pm. So please feel free to discuss the book here throughout the month, pop up any advance questions and we will see you all here, Wed 23 October.

scottishmummy France Sat 09-Nov-13 23:44:00

Shame missed this,I've read all Maggie books.loved hearwave
IMO,she writes whydunnits that unfolding of enmeshed relationships
I have gave my copies away to pals and they all like her too

Kiwirose Thu 07-Nov-13 22:53:13

I also am a slow starter with the book. Initially I found it quite slow going but as I am getting to know the characters a bit more I'm picking up speed. I'll let you know how I go in due course.

lharris1985 Mon 04-Nov-13 14:59:29

I absolutely loved The Hand that First Held Mine and Esme Lennox, so can't wait to start this one!!

tinypumpkin Mon 28-Oct-13 20:36:17

I really struggled with this and was really surprised that I did. I was really excited when I read the precise but the actual book was slow to start for me. Had I not had to include a review I would actually have given up on it to be honest. I was really disappointed.

michelleblane Fri 25-Oct-13 23:33:58

Just read all this thread. Apologies for not joining in on 23rd (I did receive a copy) but only just started reading it last night as I have had my time totally taken up with elderly parents who have managed to each break an arm! On the road to recovery so I have a little more time now Sorry!

Theimpossiblegirl Thu 24-Oct-13 16:36:39

I've finished it. I would love to read more about these characters and how their lives move forward from the end of the book. Please, please write at least 1 sequel. smile

starlight36 Thu 24-Oct-13 12:11:52

Like the Duchess I couldn't make the web chat last night as was looking after my own teething baby. I was the lucky recipient of a free copy and really enjoyed Maggie's style of writing. The novel really captured the complicated inter-family relationships we all experience to some extent. I'll definitely be reading her other novels.

DuchessofMalfi Thu 24-Oct-13 09:58:07

Just caught up with last night's chat - I missed it due to the DC and me being ill with the first cold of the Autumn sad Really enjoyable, and thank you to Maggie O'Farrell for answering my question. This was the first of her novels I've read, and I shall be working my way through the rest of them and looking forward to the next smile

MaggieOFarrell Wed 23-Oct-13 22:12:05

TillyBookClub

We've run out of time - thank you everyone for such a lively and buzzing discussion night and I'm so sorry if we didn't have time to answer your question.

I think Maggie might have to come back for a third time with the secret new novel mentioned above.

Maggie, it has been such a pleasure to have you and thank you for your time and energy and such inspiring answers. Your thoughts on motherhood and creativity are particularly inspiring.

Many thanks and please do come again...and good luck with the next one. Can't wait to read it.

Thanks so much for having me back. It's been lovely to chat to you all. Sorry we ran out of time.

Love,
Maggie x

MaggieOFarrell Wed 23-Oct-13 22:10:19

cherrytomato40

I'm too befuddled to think of an intelligent question as I'm typing one-handed from a toddler bed with an arm round a poorly 3 year old... just wanted to echo what someone else said that you are one of the few authors whose books I will always rush out and buy as soon as they are released. The Hand That First Held Mine was just perfect.

Now that you have children, would you ever write a children's book?

I'm not sure. I think it's a very particular skill that I probably don't have. I did write a story for one of my daughters but it might be a bit odd and scary for general publication!

Hope your 3-yr-old gets better.

M

MaggieOFarrell Wed 23-Oct-13 22:08:00

silverdragonfly

Hello Maggie. I haven't read your latest book yet, but I will. I have read all the others and enjoyed them all.

You are one of a couple of authors whose work I love and who have inspired me to start writing. After You'd Gone is one of the most moving novels I have read, one of few I've read more than twice. I think you find the perfect balance between beautiful writing and gripping plot. It's what I hope to achieve.

Oh, and the advice about beginnings is timely and comforting (as I looked today at the beginning of my 120,000 word draft and realised I hate it - again!)

Actually, I do have a question - if you are still reading after all that. Is writing a pleasure for you or has it become just a job? For me, its a guilty pleasure, an escape from day to day life into the world of my characters. Has that changed for you or do you still love it?

It is and always has been a keen pleasure. I wouldn't do it if it wasn't. It feels so far from a job I never tell people that is what I do for my living (I usually make something up). It feels, as you say, like an escape or an alternative to my other life. I wouldn't have one without the other.

M

MaggieOFarrell Wed 23-Oct-13 22:05:13

edukation

Hi Maggie
I'm just in the middle of IFAH and am really enjoying it. I recently finished The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox which I thought was absolutely brilliant - what happened at the end was so frustrating but totally understandable. Did you see Esme as a mentally ill person or a completely normal person with experiences that led to her behaving in the way she did? And in general do you find it hard to be upbeat in your day to day life when you are writing about distressing events and inhabiting distressed characters' minds?

I never saw Esme as having anything wrong with her at all. She was an uninhibited person who just happened to be born into a family and a time that didn't approve of her. During my research for the book, I met so many women like Esme who had been robbed of their liberty and their lives for no good reason whatsoever. I wanted to represent their plight and the gross injustice dealt to them as accurately as possible, so all the case histories mentioned in the novel are true and drawn from actual documents of the time. There was a girl locked up in Colney Hatch in London at the age of 16 for trying on her mother's clothes.

Am I upbeat? Not sure I am. I'd have to ask my husband but he's disappeared upstairs. I do feel very involved in my characters' lives and dilemmas but it feels very private and internalised, somehow, by necessity. I never tell anyone what I'm working on, not even my husband, so I don't discuss it as I go along.
M

Theimpossiblegirl Wed 23-Oct-13 22:05:03

There are murky secrets but I'm saving them for my first novel.
I can only dream of it being as good as one of yours.
smile

We've run out of time - thank you everyone for such a lively and buzzing discussion night and I'm so sorry if we didn't have time to answer your question.

I think Maggie might have to come back for a third time with the secret new novel mentioned above.

Maggie, it has been such a pleasure to have you and thank you for your time and energy and such inspiring answers. Your thoughts on motherhood and creativity are particularly inspiring.

Many thanks and please do come again...and good luck with the next one. Can't wait to read it.

EmmaLove82 Wed 23-Oct-13 22:02:38

That makes perfect sense!
Wonderful! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question.
Sorry to hear about your cat.
Looking forward to finishing the book.
Many thanks, Emma

Mintie190 Wed 23-Oct-13 21:59:56

I'm too late to ask a question but I loved The Hand that First Held Mine. Lexie is one of my favourite female characters ever. Your description of her thoughts when she was you know what (don't want to be a spoiler) summed up every maternal feeling I have. I think you are a wonderful story teller and I hope that if you ever are struggling to finish a book that you will read these posts and know that so many of us are waiting for your next instalment!

MaggieOFarrell Wed 23-Oct-13 21:58:44

nevergoogle

Good evening Maggie,
I'd like to know which of your novels is your favourite.

For me, it's the vanishing act of esme lennox. I particularly liked the ending.

I'm sorry but IFAH didn't do it for me. I liked the characters and their dialogue was brilliant but the plot just didn't twist like I would have hoped.

What's next?

I don't have a favourite - I never could. They all mean different things to me and all represent very different stages of my life.

Actually, scratch that: my favourite of my books is always the one I haven't yet started. It's still perfect and flawless in my head.

M

AmyMumsnet France (MNHQ) Wed 23-Oct-13 21:57:34

Lots of us at MNHQ loved the book but we were wondering what happens to each of the siblings. Would you ever write a sequel or will we just have to use our imagination?!

MaggieOFarrell Wed 23-Oct-13 21:56:54

EmmaLove82

Hi Maggie,
I've only just started your book but can tell I'm going to really enjoy it!
I'm only on page 44, where we are introduced to Monica.
Probably a stupid question, but I'm reading a lot about the cat!
Is there any significance to the cat or purely a vehicle/scapegoat through which Monica's feelings can be aired?

Thanks!

The cat is the one character I've lifted from life: when I wrote those scenes, my cat Malachy had just died, and he was a rather unusual rescue cat.

I wrote him in because I wanted to show how Monica is deceiving everyone around her and most of all herself. I was interested in the kind of person who can persuade herself that she feels one way when, in reality, she feels the opposite. The cat is a symbol of death and also of culpability. Monica is convinced she loathes him but of course she doesn't; she is forced to be there when he is put to sleep. She doesn't want to be responsible for all this but she is. The scene doesn't just cover the cat's death; all her reluctant emotions for the cat are really for the baby.

Hope that makes sense.

M

cracklingrosie Wed 23-Oct-13 21:55:54

Hello Maggie, I don't have a question to ask. I just wanted to say I have enjoyed all your novels and my favourite character in IFAH is Aoife. Her character was so powerful and the description of her sitting at the same infant desk at school as her peers move on and she is left behind to struggle and conceal was heart breaking. My favourite novel is The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox which I have re-read several times and always leave me in tears at the injustice of her situation.

Bicnod Wed 23-Oct-13 21:55:07

In fact, this thread has prompted me to order IFAH for October half-term reading. Hurrah grin

overthemill Wed 23-Oct-13 21:55:03

'When I started the book, I had the choice of writing about the siblings or about the father and his reasons for disappearance. It was a deliberate decision to focus the novel on the relationships between the grown-up siblings'
that's the female response isn't it? The male authors would have done the mystery whereas you unravel the personal

overthemill Wed 23-Oct-13 21:52:48

Maggie, I love your novels and along with Anne Tyler and Carol Shields (now sadly no longer with us), I buy them full price hot off the press, never give them away or lend them and eagerly look out for news of when the next one is due! AYG makes me weep. Still, years after reading it. Huge grief filled sobs.

How can you be so brilliant at describing the detail of the domestic and emotional landscape of our lives? It is the thing that in general, only women can do (not wholly true I know but I'm sticking to it) and which keeps me going.

IFAH I loved because I know the part of N London and also was 18 in 1976

Thank you! sorry to be such a fan...

Bicnod Wed 23-Oct-13 21:50:06

Hello Maggie - I have read all your books smile

The Hand That First Held Mine really touched me - I read it shortly after having my first child and some parts of it felt like you had somehow crawled inside my mind and written down (far more eloquently than I ever could of course) all the tangled up emotions I was experiencing.

It made my husband cry too (but don't tell him I told you).

I don't have a question, I just wanted to say I think you're brilliant and can't wait to read your new book.

cherrytomato40 Wed 23-Oct-13 21:48:27

I'm too befuddled to think of an intelligent question as I'm typing one-handed from a toddler bed with an arm round a poorly 3 year old... just wanted to echo what someone else said that you are one of the few authors whose books I will always rush out and buy as soon as they are released. The Hand That First Held Mine was just perfect.

Now that you have children, would you ever write a children's book?

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