Title: The Writing Retreat
Author: Julia Bartz
Publisher: Magpie Books
A book deal to die for.
Five attendees are selected for a month-long writing retreat at the remote estate of Roza Vallo, the controversial high priestess of feminist horror. Alex, a struggling writer, is thrilled.
Upon arrival, they discover they must complete an entire novel from scratch, and the best one will receive a seven-figure publishing deal. Alex’s long-extinguished dream now seems within reach.
But then the women begin to die.
Trapped, terrified yet still desperately writing, it is clear there is more than a publishing deal at stake at Blackbriar Estate. Alex must confront her own demons – and finish her novel – to save herself.
This unhinged, propulsive, claustrophobic closed-door thriller will pull you in and spit you out…
The Writing Retreat is a crazy read. It may not be believable or a book that left me feeling amazed, but is definitely good fun!
We follow Alex, who – along with four other girls – gets a place on a month-long writing retreat with famous author Roza, who also happens to be Alex’s idol. Once there, it soon becomes clear that this is not going to be a relaxing retreat but rather Roza expects everyone there to churn out thousands of words a day, or else be asked to leave. And the frantic pace soon turns into something darker…
I don’t want to give too much away about this book but I will say, if you like your psychological thrillers to be largely believable, this might be a stretch too far. If you’re prepared to suspend your disbelief, The Writing Retreat is good fun and builds the tension as we, the readers, start to uncover what’s really going on along with the writers.
The characters are quite annoying at times and the dialogue often made me feel like they were younger than they were supposed to be. However, Julia Bartz does a good job of making you wonder who you can trust, echoing the seeds of doubt planted among the writers as they realise not everyone at the retreat is exactly who they say they are.
The book moves along at a fairly steady pace until the last third where things suddenly ramp up to frenzied heights. I found myself getting a bit bored with the book extracts, and caring less and less about what happened to the characters as the book went on, so by the ending I felt a bit indifferent. But, regardless, I enjoyed the ride!
My rating: 3/5
Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest review.
The Writing Retreat is out in the UK on 2 March 2023.