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The Writing Retreat

A Novel

by Julia Bartz

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz X
The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz
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A fun and clever read
I may be biased because I'm a writer. I relate to these aspiring novelists, their interactions with an author they all admire, and their feedback discussions. It's clear that in a meta-sense, this book went through that same rigorous feedback process because it hits all the markers of a well-crafted page turning plot. The excerpts of the novel are, of course, drafty, as they're supposed to be a first draft. The characters are a lot of fun, the story is very original, and the book is truly hard to put down. I absolutely admire this book.

so-so psychological thriller
The Writing Retreat Julia Bartz is a so-so psychological thriller.

Alex wants to be a published author, but with writer's block she hasn't written anything lately. Then a friend sends feminist horror writer Roza Vallo one of her previous stories. Roza loves the story and invites Alex to the exclusive, all-female writing retreat at her Adirondacks estate, Blackbriar. Even though she learns that her former best friend, Wren, will be there, Alex can't turn down this opportunity. When she arrives, Alex learns the rules. All the five women invited must write a complete novel in 28 days and are required to write 3,000 words a day. Roza's editor will publish the best manuscript and pay a million dollar advance for it.

There is no doubt that the quality of the writing is good, but this was not quite the novel I was expecting based on the description. The premise is very compelling. Yes, there is a high pressure writing competition, there are cruel mind games, and, okay, the mansion might be haunted, but I wasn't prepared for all the focus on the occult as well as the drugs, sex, and other actions of the women. It also seemed a bit too predictable and I didn't care for the ending. Somewhere after the opening the idea of a writing competition and a book about writers went down a totally different rabbit hole and one I wasn't interested in.

I'm an outlier here. Many people love this novel. I just didn't enjoy the novel beyond the opening premise. While I forced myself to finish it, I should have just left it DNF and kept working through the many novels on my to be read list. 2 stars, one given for the quality of the writing beyond the plot and that I read it.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria/Emily Bestler Books.
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