intense sensations

How to Survive a Heatwave (Really!)

Posted on: July 18, 2013

Instructions for a HeatwaveInstructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I started reviewing books publicly I wrote most of my reviews in under ten minutes. That’s because I wrote without compunction. I just wrote what I thought without worrying about the writers’ feelings.

Then at some point I learned that people were reading my reviews and I slowed down and started to give them more thought. One of the writers in an anthology I reviewed wrote a heart-wrenching public reply that made me almost stop writing altogether. The only positive thing I took from it was that he seemed to think I’d had some sort of privileged education in an English public school.

Then I made a partly subconscious decision to write only glowing reviews.

I have written a string of glowing reviews recently. Quite a short string, because I have been lazy and I’ve been sleeping a lot. But a string nevertheless.

So I hope Maggie O’Farrell will forgive me if I emerge from my lethargic stupor to break with habit and pour cold water on her Instructions for a Heatwave.

There is little of practical value here. I am in London, 10 or 12 days into the hottest summer for decades and I’m not feeling any empathy with Maggie’s London heatwave of 1976.

She is writing in the present tense, which is a good trick if you can pull it off, because it makes time seem to stand still and immerses us in the moment. But I’m not immersed because this is one of those very thin stories that relies on flashbacks and asides to eke out the novel’s length. And its suspense comes from not telling us things we really ought to be told. Like why Gretta’s husband has left her.

I can’t believe it’s because she bakes bread in the middle of a heatwave.

As I said, you will not find sound advice here on how to survive the summer heat in one of the most polluted cities on the planet.

My advice is to stay indoors with a good air con unit, keep the windows closed so insects don’t get in, wear linen and extend yourself languorously on a cool leather sofa within reach of a tall stack of paperback erotic novels.

I’ll be recommending some soon.

In the meantime, drink plenty of liquids, move slowly and try not to think too much.

Trust me, I’m an expert in how to survive hot weather. I’m from China.


11 Responses to "How to Survive a Heatwave (Really!)"

Welcome back! You’re on top form, despite the heatwaves :)! Great review, as usual. Your advice is noted :). Stay cool!

You are always so kind, Junying. I may be unseen but I haven’t gone away. 🙂

I can remember the summer of ’76 it was glorious. There were forest fires breaking out as I drove through the New Forest on my way to the coast. I can remember finishing work and taking every opportunity to go to the local Lido to cool off, but now the Health & Safety police have closed most of the Council run Lidos, and as I have spent the last 20 years living and working in Asia and the Middle East, UK heatwave’s are quite puny in comparison and I really don’t get it. After 6 months of cold and rain we get a week of beautiful sunshine and I can’t get enough of it, but all I’ve heard is people moaning about how it is too hot. How fickle is that! Close the curtains, turn on a fan, make love and pass out if you haven’t got an AC.

No, I don’t recommend making love. Too sticky. And preserve those fluids!

Ha ha, welcome back, I love your humour.

Ha, good one Vanessa. I have no AC but love the heat. It’s 31 celsius in the house and I’m drinking hot tea.

In Canada, I take the heat when I can get it.

Hi Eden! Hot tea is very healthy. I love the heat too!

China is not known to be a real hot place, unless you stay in those places such as Nanjong, Chongqing and Wuhan during summer.

Oh! You have found out my weakness! My rhetoric was all hot air.

I prefer to celebrate the writer and her work rather than critique those books that disappoint. But never feel guilty for complaining about writing quality. Too many workshops and instructional books about the craft are available. The bad writer has no excuse.

I’m sure Maggie O’Farrell could write some instructional books on the writing craft. This star rating system can be so unfair. But I’m unrepentant. He-he.

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