Maggie O’Farrell On The Subject Of Family

Maggie O’Farrell On The Subject Of Family

Instructions for a Heatwave is a novel that revolves around the oxymoron of those urges. I wanted to capture the essence of family life, and to do this it had to be both a hymn of praise and a growl of frustration.

Novels about family are sometimes referred to as “domestic fiction”; I refute this categorisation as it carries the implication that these are somehow small novels, dealing with minor human concerns. The family is far from a “small” subject: think of Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina, novels vast in ambition, scope and depth. In the right hands, books that have the tightest of focus on one household, one marriage, one person can address the whole spectrum of human experience. I have taken inspiration from countless novels, from a lifetime of reading, but these are some of the books on the subject of family that I have loved, reread, and pressed into the hands of others.

Good Behaviour – Molly Keane

The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen

Any and all of the Patrick Melrose novels – Edward St Aubyn

Brightness Falls & The Good Life – Jay McInerney

Unaccustomed Earth – Jhumpa Lahiri

Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout

O Caledonia – Elspeth Barker

I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

Anna Karenina – Tolstoy

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You – Amy Bloom

The Way We Live Now – Anthony Trollope

Troubles – JG Farrell

The Rabbit Tetralogy – John Updike

Middlesex – Jeffery Eugenides

The Travelling Hornplayer – Barbara Trapido

Invitation to the Waltz – Rosamund Lehmann

Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

The Descendents – Kaui Hart Hemmings

Wise Children – Angela Carter

Howards End – EM Forster

Diary of a Provincial Lady – EM Delafield

Sour Sweet – Timothy Mo

The Tortoise and the Hare – Elizabeth Jenkins