When the sky is dark grey for days on end and water pours down the road so you have to wade to cross, it feels like the rain never stops. So reading Instructions for a Heatwave, Maggie O'Farrell's latest novel was quite a relief. I'd forgotten just how hot it was in 1976. I read Maggie O'Farrell's first novel in 2000 when it first came out. A friend and I spent a week of that summer on a creative writing course at UEA. I was making some first tentative steps into writing fiction and still feel embarrassed when I remember those dreadful pieces of prose I struggled to produce. Julia Bell was a wonderful tutor who never made me feel inadequate to the task and she recommended that if we were interested in writing fiction then we needed to read Maggie's first book After You'd Gone. I loved it and looked out for each new book of hers as it arrived. When I bought this latest, the bookshop assistant said she thought Maggie's writing gets better with every book and I think I agree with her. This is a very accomplished book with a riveting storyline and the oppressively hot weather contributes in no small part to its atmosphere. Reading about sun and heat was very welcome when it was so dull and grey outside.
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