Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth
|Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth|
|Reviewer: Heather Butterworth|
|Summary: A chilling, atmospheric debut with deep hidden secrets. Definitely one to read this summer!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: May 2020|
|Publisher: Headline Review|
Too hot to sleep. Too hot to think straight. Too hot to go back
During a British heatwave 15-year-old, Lily Dixon, has left home and is reported missing. Rachel is a teacher at Lily's school and the mother of Mia, Lily's best friend. As Lily's family and the police struggle to find any evidence that may lead to Lily, Rachel takes it upon herself to start looking for clues. However, as the case goes on Rachel becomes fixated on finding Lily and finds herself crossing boundaries, breaking trust and facing some impossible choices. Will they find Lily? Does Lily want to be found? And will life for Rachel ever be the same again?
Heatstroke is a fantastic debut from Hazel Barkworth and I feel this is the start of a very successful career. Barkworth writes with such confidence and conviction that you would easily believe this was her 6th book, not her first. The writing is so atmospheric that you can almost place yourself there in the heat. It gives a sense of claustrophobia and, as tensions rise, becomes almost suffocating. I found this use of pathetic fallacy incredible and, for someone who doesn't deal well with hot weather, I completely related to the discomfort felt by the characters.
Barkworth's characterization is brilliant. Rachel is a unique character with some dark secrets of her own and you can feel them swimming slowly to the surface with each passing chapter. I wasn't particularly fond of Rachel and sometimes felt uncomfortable being in her thoughts which I thought was excellent. Rachel is very obsessive and jealous and breaks the mold of the loving mother/teacher she presents to the world. Sometimes, with a first-person protagonist, I find the character can be lost in the telling of the story, but this doesn't happen in this novel. Her character seeps through with every peculiar, dark thought. Rachel is also a very observant character and it didn't feel forced; this helps the reader a lot and aids characterisation of some of the secondary characters – particularly with Lily. One character I wish had been developed more is Mia. I didn't feel like I really knew her or understood what type of person she was.
Heatstroke touches on some really important themes such as mother/daughter relationships, obsession, womanhood and societal pressures on women. The theme that seems to run throughout most of this book is the abuse of power. It is found within most of the characters and comes from multiple sources – friends, teachers, parents etc. – who all abuse their positions of power in some way. Discussing themes in this novel is difficult as I don't want to ruin any of the twists and secrets. Instead I will say there are some dark turns in this book that will keep you gripped throughout.
There are some areas that I think could have done with a little bit more development. I found the ending to be a little rushed and felt like I had lots of unanswered questions that I wanted tied up – this could be because there will be a sequel, but I personally see this being a standalone novel. I also felt, as beautiful as Barkworth's writing is, it sometimes felt over descriptive and affected the fluency.
Overall, I think this is a brilliant debut and has etched Hazel Barkworth's name onto my list of authors to look out for. It's the perfect summer read for anyone who is a fan of crime/thriller novels but also has a variety of themes and characters that would suit most readers. It will have you gripped from start to finish!
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