I am starting this review with an immediate and huge thank you to Ella Watkins from Penguin for the invite to join this Blog Tour. And swiftly following it up with the fact that I read, ok, inhaled (!) The Heatwave in under 24 hours! So if you are looking for a book that keeps you spinning the pages and is steeped in intrigue look not further!
The Heatwave follows the story of Sylvie; living in London, she has fled her native France after the tragic loss of her daughter Elodie 10 years ago. Her marriage has broken down but she has rebuilt her life with her younger daughter Emma, now 14.
But at the beginning of the summer an unexpected phone call brings the past into the present. Sylvie’s family home, where Elodie died in mysterious circumstances.the home the family have left empty, needs her attention. There has been a small fire, but it is time the house is sold. So reluctantly Sylvie takes Emma and heads south, to Provence, where an extreme heatwave and hill fires add to an already stressful summer.
Once back in the village Sylvie is unable to escape the past she has kept hidden. Reminders of her marriage and Elodie assail her and it becomes clear that Elodie was no ordinary child. Emma has very little understanding of what happened to her much older sister and the strain of finding a way to tell her youngest daughter the truth behind to tell on Sylvie.
There are whispers in the village about the past and the present, and the mystery’s about what exactly happened to the beautiful but difficult Elodie deepens with each page.
The story unfolds slowly. Told using a dual timeframe the plotting is pitch perfect. Flashbacks to Elodie’s childhood show Sylvie as a young mother, often left alone as her husband Greg travels lbuilding his antiques business. And she is left with Elodie; a child unlike any other. Elodie is self contained, beautiful and manipulative, and it is Sylvie who she unsettles the most.
As the incidents of strange and disturbing behaviour stack up Sylvie is left fighting her husband, desperate to make him accept their daughter is not like other children. Desperate to avoid the inevitable.
The level of tension within this book is delicious! From the outset you know that there is a hidden tragedy. As readers we have some sketchy details, but just the merest of outlines, and like Emma, the reader is trying to fill in the blanks.
The juxtaposition of the past and present tantalises and teases, adding just enough detail but pulling away just when you think you are almost there! There are twists and turns on the way to the truth and the intensity of the heat, the building distant fires, add to the sense of tension. Here is a sense of the reader racing to the truth before it’s too late.
This is a novel about close relationships, especially that unique bond between mothers and daughters. There is a sense in this novel of strong women. Women who are perceptive, who understand their children in a way that others don’t. This novel explores what happens when the mother/child bond is tested. What happens when a child is not as the rest of the world perceives? When a mother is pulled in two directions, both by the desire to protect her daughter but also by the fear of what she might do?
This book is a delight. It is a book to lose yourself in. I sat down to read it on a windswept, rain soaked Cumbrian day and was immediately transported to sun bleached Provence. The details are evocative, heady and disturbing. You aren’t just reading this story, you are living it. And it is all the more powerful for that.
And there is more…
For more reactions and reviews check out the rest of the Heatwave blog tour. Details below…