Published 2013 set in 1976
observations: This is Monica, getting dressed in the middle of the heatwave of 1976, and in all conscience the dress probably wasn’t even as nice as the one in the picture – a lot more covered-up. This is the story of a family crisis at a very specific time and place: Monica’s father, Robert, has disappeared, apparently just walked away from her mother Gretta. The three siblings, Michael Francis, Monica and Aoife gather at the family home to see what can be done: everything happens from Thursday to Sunday (although with some flashbacks and memories). To anyone who lived through the drought summer of 1976, the atmosphere is very well-done – much better than in the William Boyd book Restless, yesterday, which takes the same specific time and does nothing with it. O’Farrell is good on the heat, the restlessness the simultaneous enjoyment of heat and hatred of it, and the strange feeling that there has never been weather like this before.
It’s a very entertaining and involving book: very good on different kinds of families, shouty ones and quiet ones:
He was used to a house in which people clattered from room to room, shouted down staircases, banged open doors to yell, what time do you call this, where people threw themselves into chairs, slammed down teacups, used more words than perhaps they needed to.-- and O’Farrell is also good on class differences, the expectations of the children, the clothes they wear, the mother setting the tone of the family. There are family secrets and problems and misunderstandings, and it is all extremely well-written – but you’re left with a faint feeling that it was all a bit easy, that the plot (suddenly emerging in the final quarter) was just an excuse to write about these people, and that it’s good, but doesn’t quite soar. But still, a very entertaining book. And really, much better than the much-praised Restless.
The picture is from a fashion magazine from the summer of 1977.