“The Writing Retreat” by Julia Bartz – Book Review

Alex, who works at a low paid job in publishing, is an aspiring writer. Now however, she is suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. The block began when she parted ways with Wren, her best friend and roommate about a year ago.

She has been a life-long reader and her favorite author and mentor is Roza Vallo. When she wins a place at Roza’s month-long writing retreat in the New York Adirondacks, she is overjoyed – but apprehensive. Will she be able to write? And, more importantly will she be able to cope with seeing her ex-best friend there? For yes, Wren has also won a place there for the month.

The setting was divine. A huge stone Adirondack mansion in February. A house with a history, and one which is quite remote from its neighbors and has no internet connection. An immense country pile complete with hidden rooms and passageways.

The characters were not in the least likeable. Most of them acted frighteningly immature and displayed ‘mean girl’ tendencies. Anyone who is sensitive to profanity should be warned that this novel is laced with it.

Roza made high demands on her guests. She wants them to complete an entire novel in the month that they are there. They must submit 3000 words to her every day for her perusal. Meanwhile, when not writing, they must meet for meals and some unsavoury parlour games. Roza’s character was unpredictable, edgy, and cuttingly mean to the point of being almost predatory. And where there’s a predator, there is usually a victim…

The book’s premise was promising, yet, in my opinion, the execution fell short. Parts of the book were extraneous to the story and felt forced, yet there was an interesting plot twist.

With themes of rivalry, manipulation, plagiarism, ambition, lesbianism, duplicitousness, and power plays, “The Writing Retreat” was a twisted, suspense-fuelled thriller.

Oh dear, I expect my opinion on this debut novel will be in the minority. Though there was much to like about this book, I found it just too edgy, too bodacious and titillating for my personal enjoyment.

This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Atria/Emily Estler Books via Edelweiss.

ISBN: 9781982199456 – ASIN: ‎ B0B3Y84THW – 320 pages

Published February 21, 2023 – available now!

Julia Bartz is a Brooklyn-based writer and practicing therapist. Her fiction writing has appeared in The South Dakota Review, InDigest Magazine, and more. The Writing Retreat is her first novel.

Connect with Julia Bartz via Twitter and/or Instagram.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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4 Responses to “The Writing Retreat” by Julia Bartz – Book Review

  1. Carla says:

    I have been worried about this one for awhile now. Profanity, especially if there is a lot of it, bothers me and I have closed a book because of it. I shall see how I do with this one. Thanks for the honest review, Lynne.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re definitely not the only one! I felt like it fell short, too – so, if it’s a minority opinion, I’m in it with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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