Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth

Back in November I was delighted to participate in the cover reveal for Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth, since when I have been desperate to read it. Today I’m finally sharing my review. My enormous thanks to Jo Liddiard at Headline for sending me a copy of Heatstroke in return for this honest review.

Heatstroke will be published by Headline Review on 28th May 2020 and is available for purchase here.



The summer burns with secrets…

It is too hot to sleep. To work. To be questioned time and again by the police.

At the beginning of a stifling, sultry summer, everything shifts irrevocably when Lily doesn’t come home one afternoon.

Rachel is Lily’s teacher. Her daughter Mia is Lily’s best friend. The girls are fifteen – almost women, still children.

As Rachel becomes increasingly fixated on Lily’s absence, she finds herself breaking fragile trusts and confronting impossible choices she never thought she’d face.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

Intoxicating and compulsive, Heatstroke is a darkly gripping, thought-provoking novel of crossed boundaries, power and betrayal, that plays with expectations at every turn.

My Review of Heatstoke

In the heat of the summer nothing will ever be the same again for Mia, Lily and Rachel.

What a fabulous book! Heatstroke is exactly my kind of read because it’s intensely character led but still has a gripping and frequently unnerving plot. I loved it.

Hazel Barkworth has an exquisite literary skill that creates the atmosphere of unbearable heat superbly. It isn’t just the weather that smoulders with feverishness so effectively in Heatstroke, but the relationships and events build a tension as if a storm is about to break, that made it impossible for me to put the book aside until I had devoured it in a couple of sittings. The descriptions are wonderful so that I could feel the heat, the passion and the tension every bit as much as Rachel does. Heatstroke is claustrophobic, intense and brilliantly entertaining.

Obviously I won’t say too much about the plot because I’d hate to spoil the read but when Lily goes missing the clever structure of the novel provides an almost voyeuristic viewpoint that is as uncomfortable to read on occasion as it is mesmerising. Heatstroke made my flesh creep but I didn’t want to stop reading.

And it is Rachel who creates much of this sensation of disquiet because the more she is revealed, the more compelling she becomes until I found myself both hating and loving her simultaneously. She is monstrous in some ways, simply being a woman and a mother in others, and yet much as I wanted to denounce her and dislike her I was hypnotically drawn to her. Hazel Barkworth’s skilful portrayal of females is a masterclass in characterisation.

However, the themes underpinning Heatstroke are what make it so mesmerising. Obsession, sexuality, family, friendship, adolescence, trust, loss and a laser like presentation of female behaviour provide layer upon layer of depth and interest. Reading Heatstroke is akin to seeing an object at the bottom of a swimming pool. Although you know what it is, refractions distort it until reality is blurred so that reading Heatstroke is a bit like having heatstroke where rationality can feel just out of reach. I suspect I could read the book several times and find something new every time.

Oppressive in atmosphere, fabulously intimate and definitely disturbing, Heatstroke is a completely compelling read that held me captivated. I thought it was outstanding.

About Hazel Barkworth

Hazel Barkworth

Hazel Barkworth is a graduate of both the Oxford University MSt in Creative Writing and the Curtis Brown Creative Novel-Writing Course. She lives in London with her partner, and works as a cultural consultant. Her debut novel Heatstroke will be published by Headline in 2020.

You can find Hazel on Instagram and Twitter @BarkworthHazel.

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