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Instructions for a Heatwave (English Edition)
 
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Instructions for a Heatwave (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Maggie O'Farrell
3.8 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (6 commentaires client)

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Extrait

Highbury, London
 
The heat, the heat. It wakes Gretta just after dawn, propelling her from the bed and down the stairs. It inhabits the house like a guest who has outstayed his welcome: it lies along corridors, it circles around curtains, it lolls heavily on sofas and chairs. The air in the kitchen is like a solid entity filling the space, pushing Gretta down into the floor, against the side of the table.
 
Only she would choose to bake bread in such weather.
 
Consider her now, yanking open the oven and grimacing in its scorching blast as she pulls out the bread tin. She is in her nightdress, hair still wound onto curlers. She takes two steps backwards and tips the steaming loaf into the sink, the weight of it reminding her, as it always does, of a baby, a newborn, the packed, damp warmth of it.
 
She has made soda bread three times a week for her entire married life. She is not about to let a little thing like a heatwave get in the way of that. Of course, living in London, it is impossible to get buttermilk; she has to make do with a mixture of half milk and half yogurt. A woman at Mass told her it worked and it does, up to a point, but it is never quite the same.
 
At a clacking sound on the lino behind her, she says, “Is that you? Bread’s ready.”
 
“It’s going to be—” he begins, then stops.
 
Gretta waits for a moment before turning around. Robert is standing between the sink and the table, his large hands upturned, as if he’s holding a tea tray. He is staring at some-thing. The tarnished chrome of the tap, perhaps, the runnels of the draining board, that rusting enamel pan. Everything around them is so familiar, it’s impossible sometimes to tell what your eye has been trained upon, the way a person can no longer hear the individual notes of a known piece of music.
 
“It’s going to be a what?” she demands. He doesn’t reply. She moves towards him and places a palm on his shoulder. “You all right?” She has, of late, been finding herself reminded of his age, the sudden stoop of his back, the look of mild confusion on his face.
 
“What?” He swings his head around to look at her, as if startled by her touch. “Yes.” He nods. “Of course. I was just saying it’s going to be another hot one today.”
 
He shuffles sideways, just as she’d known he would, towards the thermometer, which clings, by a spit-moistened sucker, to the outside of the window.
 
It is the third month of the drought. For ten days now the heat has passed 90ºF. There has been no rain—not for days, not for weeks, not for months. No clouds pass, slow and stately as ships, over the roofs of these houses.
 
With a metallic click, like that of a hammer tapping a nail, a black spot lands on the window, as if pulled there by magnetic force. Robert, still peering at the thermometer, flinches. The insect has a striated underside, six legs splaying outwards. Another appears, at the other end of the window, then another, then another.
 
“Those buggers are back,” he murmurs.
 
Gretta comes to see, jamming on her glasses. Together, they peer at them, transfixed.
 
Swarms of red-backed aphids have, in the past week, been passing over the city. They mass in trees, on car windscreens. They catch in the hair of children coming home from school, they find their way into the mouths of those crazy enough to cycle in this heat, their feet adhere to the sun-creamed limbs of people lying in their back gardens.
 
The aphids fling themselves from the window, their feet detaching at the same moment, as if alerted by some secret signal, and they disappear into the azure sky.
 
Gretta and Robert straighten up, in unison, relieved.
 
“That’s them gone,” he says.
 
She sees him glance at the clock on the wall—a quarter to seven. At precisely this time, for more than thirty years, he would leave the house. He would take his coat off the peg by the door, pick up his bag, call goodbye to them all, shouting and squawking in the kitchen, and slam the door behind him. He always left at six forty-five, on the proverbial dot, no matter what was happening, whether Michael Francis was refusing to get out of bed, whether Aoife was kicking up a stink about Godknowswhat, whether Monica was trying to take over the cooking of the bacon. Not his department, all that, never was. Six forty-five, and he was out the door, gone.
 
He seems to feel a twitching in his limbs, she’s noticed, a kind of vestigial urge to set off, to get going, to be out in the world. Any minute now, she knows, he’ll be off to the newsagent’s.
 
With a hand on her bad hip, she pushes the chair out from the table with her foot, and Robert says, “I’ll just go round the corner and get the paper.
 
“Right you are,” she says, without looking up. “See you in a bit.”
 
Gretta sits herself down at the table. Robert has arranged everything she needs: a plate, a knife, a bowl with a spoon, a pat of butter, a jar of marmalade. It is in such small acts of kindness that people know they are loved. Which is, she reflects as she moves the sugar bowl to one side, surprisingly rare at their age. So many friends of hers feel overlooked or outgrown or unseen by their husbands, like furniture kept too long. But not her. Robert likes to know where she is at all times, he frets if she leaves the house without telling him, gets edgy if she slips away with-out him seeing, and starts ringing the children to question them on her whereabouts. It used to drive her crazy when they were first married—she used to long for a bit of invisibility, a bit of liberty—but she’s used to it now. Gretta saws a hunk from the end of the loaf and slathers it with butter. She gets a terrible weakness in her limbs if she doesn’t eat regularly. She told a doctor, years ago, that she thought she had hypoglycemia, after reading about it in a Sunday newspaper. Which would have explained her need to eat quite so often, wouldn’t it? But the doctor hadn’t even looked up from his prescription pad. “No such luck, I’m afraid, Mrs. Riordan,” he’d said, the cheeky so-and-so, and handed her a diet sheet.
 
The children all love this bread. She makes an extra loaf if she’s going to visit any of them and takes it, wrapped in a tea towel. She’s always done her best to keep Ireland alive in her London-born children. The girls both went to  Irish-dancing classes. They had to catch the bus all the way to a place in Cam-den Town. Gretta used to take a cake tin of brack or gingerbread with her to pass around to the other mothers—exiled like her from Cork, from Dublin, from Donegal—and they would watch their daughters dip up and dip down, tap their feet in time to the fiddle. Monica, the teacher had said after only three lessons, had talent, had the potential to be a champion. She always knew, the teacher had said, she could always spot them. But Monica hadn’t wanted to become a champion or to enter the competitions. I hate it, she’d whisper, I hate it when everyone looks at you, when the judges write things down. She’d always been so fearful, so cautious, so backwards in coming forwards. Was it Gretta’s fault, or were children born like that? Hard to know. Either way, she’d had to allow Monica to give up the dancing, which was a crying shame.
 
Gretta had insisted on regular Mass and communion for each of them (although look how that had turned out). They’d gone to Ireland every year for the summer, fi rst to her mother’s and then to the cottage on Omey Island, even when they’d got older and started to moan about the journey. When Aoife was little, she’d loved the excitement of having to wait for the tide to draw back off the causeway, revealing the slick, glassy sand, before they could walk over. “It’s only an island sometimes,” Aoife had said once, when she was about six, “isn’t that right, Mammy?” And Gretta had hugged her and told her how clever she was. She’d been a strange child, always coming out with things like that.
 
They were perfect, those summers, she thinks now, as she bites down into her second slice of bread. Monica and Michael Francis out roaming until all hours and, when Aoife came along, a baby in a crib to keep her company in the kitchen, before she went out to call the others in for their tea.
 
No, she couldn’t have done any more. And yet Michael Fran-cis had given his children the most English of English names. Not even an Irish middle name, she’d asked. She wouldn’t allow herself to think about how they were growing up heathen. When she’d mentioned to her daughter-in-law that she knew of a lovely Irish-dance school in Camden, not far from them, her daughter-in-law had laughed. In her face. And said—what was it?—is that the one where you’re not allowed to move your arms?
 
About Aoife, of course, the less said the better. She’d gone off to America. Never called. Never wrote. Living with some-body, Gretta suspects. Nobody has told her this; call it a mother’s instinct. Leave her alone, Michael Francis always says, if Gretta starts to question him about Aoife. Because she knows Michael Francis will know, if anyone does. Always as thick as thieves, those two, despite the age gap.
 
The last they’d heard from Aoife was a postcard at Christ-mas. A postcard. A picture of the Empire State Building on it. For the love of God, she’d shouted, when Robert handed it to her, is she not even able to stretch to a Christmas card, now? As if, she’d continued to shout, I’d never given her a proper upbringing. She’d spent the better part of three weeks sewing a communion dress for that child and she’d looked like an angel. Everybody said so. Who’d have thought then, as she’d stood on the church steps in her white dress and white lace ankle socks, veil fl uttering in the breeze, that she’d grow up so ungrateful, so thoughtless that she’d send a picture of a building to her mother to mark the Christ Child’s birthday?
 
Gretta sniffs as she dips her knife into the red mouth of the jam pot. Aoife doesn’t bear thinking about. The black sheep, her own sister had called her that time, and Gretta had fl own off the handle and told her to mind her bloody tongue, but she has to concede that Bridie had a point.
 
She crosses herself, says a swift novena for her youngest child under her breath, under the ever-watchful eye of Our Lady, who looks down from the kitchen wall. She cuts another slice of bread, watching the steam vanish into the air. She will not think about Aoife now. There are plenty of good things to focus on instead. Monica might ring tonight—Gretta had told her she’d be near the phone from six. Michael Francis had as good as promised to bring the children over this weekend. She will not think about Aoife, she will not look at the photo of her in the communion outfi t that sits on the mantelpiece, no, she will not.
 
After putting the bread back on the rack to air for Rob-ert, Gretta eats a spoonful of jam, just to keep herself going, then another. She glances up at the clock. Quarter past already. Rob-ert should be back by now. Maybe he bumped into someone and got talking. She wants to ask him will he drive her to the market this afternoon, after the crowds heading to the football stadium have dispersed? She needs a couple of things, some fl our, a few eggs wouldn’t go amiss. Where could they go to escape the heat? Maybe a cup of tea at that place with the good scones. They could walk down the street, arm in arm, take the air. Talk to a few people. It was important to keep him busy: ever since the retirement, he can become brooding and bored if confi ned to the house for too long. She likes to organize these outings for them.
 
Gretta goes out through the living room into the hall, opens the front door and walks out onto the path, sidestepping that rusting carcass of a bicycle Robert uses. She looks left, she looks
right. She sees next door’s cat arch its back, then walk in mincing, feline steps along the wall, towards the lilac bush, where it proceeds to scratch its claws. The road is empty. No one about. She sees a red car caught mid-maneuver, farther up the road. A magpie keens and moans overhead, wheeling sideways in the sky, wing pointing downwards. In the distance, a bus grinds up the hill, a child trundles on a scooter along the pavement, someone somewhere turns on a radio. Gretta puts her hands on her hips. She calls her husband’s name, once, twice. The flank of the garden wall throws the sound back to her.
 
Stoke Newington, London
 
Michael has walked from Finsbury Park station. A mad decision in the heat, even at this time of day. But the roads had been choked when he’d emerged aboveground, the buses stranded in traffi c, wheels motionless on the softening tarmac, so he’d set off along the pavement, between the houses that seemed to transpire heat from their very bricks, making the streets into sweltering runnels through which he must toil. He pauses, panting and perspiring, in the shade of the trees that fringe Clissold Park. Removing his tie and freeing his shirt from his trousers, he surveys the damage wreaked by this neverending heatwave: the park is no longer the undulating green lung he has always loved. He has been coming here since he was a child: his mother would pack a picnic—hard-boiled eggs, bluish under their crumbling shells, water that tasted of Tupperware, a wedge of tea cake each; they would all be handed a bag to
carry off the bus, even Aoife. “No shirkers,” his mother would say loudly, as they stood waiting for the door to open, making the rest of the bus look around. He can remember pushing Aoife in her striped buggy along the path by the railings, trying to get her off to sleep; he can remember his mother trying to coax Monica into that paddling pool. He recalls the park as a space of differing shades of green: the full emerald sweeps of grass, the plintering verdigris of the paddling pool, the lime-yellow of the light through the trees. But now the grass is a scorched ocher, the bare earth showing through, and the trees offer up limp leaves to the unmoving air, as if in reproach.
 
He draws in a breath through his nose and, realizing that the dry air burns his nostrils, takes a look at his watch. Just after five. He should get home.
 
 
It is the last day of term, the start of the long summer holidays. He has made it to the end of another school year. No more marking, no more classes, no more getting up and getting out in the mornings for six whole weeks. His relief is so enormous that it manifests itself physically, as a weightless, almost dizzy sensation at the back of his head; he has the sense he might stumble if he moves too quickly, so unburdened, so untethered does he feel. He sets off in the most direct route, straight across the burntout grass, out into the shadeless open, where the light is level and merciless, past the shut café where he longed to eat as a child but never did. Daylight robbery, his mother called it, unwrapping sandwiches from their grease-proof shrouds.
 
Sweat breaks out in his hairline, along his spine, his feet move jerkily over the ground and he wonders, not for the first time, how others might see him. A father, returning from his place of work to his home, where his family and his dinner will be waiting. Or a man overheated and sweaty, late, carrying too many books, too many papers, in his briefcase. A person past youth, hair thinning just a little at the crown, wearing shoes that need resoling and socks that require a darn. A man tormented by this heatwave because how is one supposed to dress for work in temperatures such as this, in a shirt and a tie, for God’s sake, in long trousers, and how is one meant to concentrate when the female inhabitants of the city walk about pavements and sit in offices in the briefest of shorts, their legs bare and brown and crossed against him, in narrow-strapped tops with their shoulders exposed, just the thinnest of fabrics separating their breasts from the unbearably hot air? A man hurrying home to a wife who will no longer look him in the eye, no longer seek his touch, a wife whose cool indifference has provoked in him such a slow-burning, low-level panic that he cannot sleep in his own bed, cannot sit easily in his own house.
 
The edge of the park is in sight now. He’s almost there. One more stretch of grass in full sun, then a road, then around the corner, then it’s his street. He can make out the roofs of his neighbors and, if he stretches on tiptoe, the slates of his house, the chimney pot, the skylight beneath which, he is sure, his wife will be sitting.
 
He swats a bead of moisture from his upper lip and switches his briefcase to the opposite hand. At the end of his street, there is a queue at the standpipe. Several of his neighbors, a lady from down the road and a few others he doesn’t recognize, straggle across the pavement and onto the road, empty drums at their feet. Some of them chat to each other, one or two wave or nod to him as he passes. The thought that he ought to offer to help the lady passes through his mind; he ought to stop, fill her drum for her, carry it back to her house. It would be the right thing to do. She is his mother’s age, perhaps older. He should stop, offer help. How will she manage otherwise? But his feet don’t hesitate in their movement. He has to get home, he can’t brook any further delay.
 
He unlatches his gate and swings it open, feeling as though it has been weeks since he last saw his home, feeling joy surge through him at the thought that he doesn’t have to leave it for
six weeks. He loves this place, this house. He loves the black-and-white-tiled front path, the orange-painted front door, with the lion-faced knocker and the blue glass insets. If he could,
he would stretch himself skywards until he was big enough to embrace its red-gray bricks. The fact that he has bought it with his own money—or some of his own money, along with a large mortgage—never ceases to amaze him. That, and the fact it contains at this very moment the three people most precious to him in the world.
 
He unlocks the door, steps onto the mat, flings his bag to the floor and shouts, “Hello! I’m home!”
 
He is, for a moment, exactly the person he is meant to be: a man, returning from work, on the threshold of his home, about to greet his family. There is no difference, no schism, between the way the world might see him and the person he privately knows himself to be.
 
“Hello?” he calls again.
 
The house makes no answer. He shuts the door behind him and picks his way through the flotsam of bricks, dolls’ clothes and plastic teacups on the hall floor.
 
 

Revue de presse

The Riordans will stay in your mind long after you finish this book. They're funny, infuriating and impossible not to love. They feel like family (Irish Times)

My favourite kind of novel: big-hearted, psychologically complex and utterly gripping (Maria Semple, author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette)

Unputdownable (Joanna Briscoe, Guardian)

Instantly appealing...magical (Daily Telegraph)

Masterful...holds you on an exquisite knife-edge (Marie Claire)

An author at the top of her game (Sunday Express)

O'Farrell's language is lissom, airborne, mostly seamless, her characters flawed, contradictory, aggravating and instantly knowable. This is a deceptively easy, effortlessly true-feeling novel; a total delight (Metro)

A quite wonderful novel...at once enthralling, page turning and atmospheric (Irish Examiner)

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 862 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 338 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0345804716
  • Editeur : Tinder Press (28 février 2013)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B009P3N29O
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 3.8 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (6 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°34.642 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires en ligne

3.8 étoiles sur 5
3.8 étoiles sur 5
Commentaires client les plus utiles
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Une belle écriture intimiste 10 novembre 2013
Par Armalite TOP 500 COMMENTATEURS
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Pendant la canicule de l'été 1976, en Angleterre, le père d'une famille d'immigrés irlandais disparaît sans laisser de traces. Les trois enfants rentrent au bercail de plus ou moins bonne grâce afin d'entourer leur mère. Michael Patrick, l'aîné, a épousé sa petite amie parce qu'elle était enceinte et dû renoncer à son doctorat d'histoire. Aujourd'hui, il végète dans un boulot de prof, et sa femme se désintéresse complètement de lui. Monica, la cadette, est mariée en secondes noces à un antiquaire bien plus vieux qu'elle qui l'a emmenée vivre à la campagne où elle s'ennuie profondément; en outre, elle ne parvient pas à se faire accepter de ses deux belles-filles. Aoife, la benjamine, est partie s'installer à New York des années auparavant afin que personne ne découvre le secret qu'elle cache depuis sa petite enfance. Devenue l'assistante d'une photographe célèbre, elle vit dans la crainte permanente d'être démasquée...

J'avais lu et adoré les trois premiers romans de Maggie O'Farrell ("After You'd Gone", "My Lover's Lover" et "The Distance Between Us"); avec le recul, je ne sais plus bien pourquoi j'ai cessé de suivre cette auteure. Mais après avoir découvert Stewart O'Nan cet été, je suis frappée par les similitudes de leur style: cette façon de rentrer dans la tête de gens proches les uns des autres pour décortiquer leurs rapports, cette sensibilité dans la façon de décrire le quotidien, cet art de tenir le lecteur en haleine des centaines de pages durant sans qu'il se passe grand-chose.
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3.0 étoiles sur 5 Secrets de famille 27 septembre 2014
Format:Broché
Toute la famille Riordan, d'origine irlandaise vivant à Londres, cache des secrets qui vont se dévoiler pendant une vague de chaleur de l'année 1976. Les personnages sont attachants mais l'intrigue n"est pas totalement maitrisée par l'auteure, surtout quand le dénouement dépend d'une révélation fortuite. On peut passer un moment agréable avec ce roman -- je l'ai lu pendant un vol long courrier -- mais je ne mettrai pas d'autres livres de cette auteure sur ma liste de priorités.
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Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Livre bien écrit ,belles descriptions mais la construction de l'histoire ne tient pas, on reste sur sa faim à la fin de l'histoire, on ne sait pas pourquoi le héros a agit ainsi, et ce qu'il va advenir des protagonistes.
Maggie O'Farrel a eu des très bonnes idées, a voulu aborder différents thèmes mais l'ensemble ne va pas.
Quant au titre : Instructions for a heat wave, why instructions ???
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