France is one of my favourite holiday destinations but sadly not to be this year, as for many people. It’s been a few years since I’ve been as far south as beautiful Provence but I do recall the intense baking heat as described by the author in the beginning of the book. I read this in the garden over a couple of days in a mini heatwave and with the smell of woodsmoke from a neighbour’s firepit drifting over, it was such an atmospheric read. Fire features a lot in the book so it was almost like I’d stepped right into the story.
In 1993 Sylvie returns to her family home in the south of France with her daughter Emma. They haven’t been back in over 10 years since the death of her older daughter Elodie. The story flips back to 1968 then onwards through the years as we read about Sylvie’s relationship with now ex-husband Greg and the life they shared with Elodie. Elodie was obviously a rather strange child, difficult to love and so manipulative. It seemed she adored her father but even from a very early age shut out her mother. Emma was very young when she moved to England so doesn’t really know what happened to her sister. Returning to the house starts to bring back memories for both Sylvie and Emma and there is a very unsettling feel around the place.
Right from the start of the book, there was a sense of mystery and tension, of long buried secrets that drew me in and didn’t let go till the very end. Along there way there was plenty of suspense and some things happened which took me completely by surprise. For a large part of the book the author so cleverly misled me about one of her characters. It was one of those gasp out loud moments when I realised!
On a side note, I was interested to read about the etymology of the name of Sylvie’s home La Rêverie. I knew that rêverie was the French word for a daydream but if anything, it was a place of nightmares here. But I didn’t know it had similar roots to the word for wild speech or delirium. The word rave as in raving mad is from the same root. I think there was more than a hint of wildness and madness affecting Elodie.
The oppressive heat of the Provencal summer is described so well by Kate Riordan and it made this a really sultry and atmospheric read. The Heatwave is a brilliantly clever and dark thriller that had me totally gripped and wondering just what was going to happen next. It is a real page-turner and has earned its place on my top reads list for 2020.
The Heatwave is published by Michael Joseph (an imprint of Penguin) and is available now as an ebook and audiobook. The paperback is available to pre-order and will be published on 3rd September. If you are able to support a physical bookshop just now, please do order your copy from there. Otherwise you will find buying options for various retailers on the Penguin website here: The Heatwave
From the back of the book
Elodie is dead.
Sylvie hasn’t been back to her crumbling French family home in years. Not since the death of her eldest daughter Elodie.
Every corner of the old house feels haunted by memories of her – memories she has tried to forget.
But as temperatures rise, and forest fires rage through the French countryside, a long-buried family secret is about to come to light.
Because there’s something Sylvie’s been hiding about what really happened to Elodie that summer.
And it could change everything.
About the author
Kate Riordan is a writer and journalist. She is an avid reader of Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie, both of whom have influenced her writing. She lives in the Cotswolds, where she writes full-time. The Heatwave is her fourth novel.