Review: The Writing Retreat

Title: The Writing Retreat
Author: Julia Bartz
Genre: Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher and Tandem Collective
Format: Paperback
Release Date: February 21, 2023
Rating: ★★★


Goodreads Synopsis:

A book deal to die for. 

Five attendees are selected for a month-long writing retreat at the remote estate of Roza Vallo, the controversial high priestess of feminist horror. Alex, a struggling writer, is thrilled.

Upon arrival, they discover they must complete an entire novel from scratch, and the best one will receive a seven-figure publishing deal. Alex’s long-extinguished dream now seems within reach.

But then the women begin to die.

Trapped, terrified yet still desperately writing, it is clear there is more than a publishing deal at stake at Blackbriar Estate. Alex must confront her own demons – and finish her novel – to save herself.

This unhinged, propulsive, claustrophobic closed-door thriller will pull you in and spit you out…


Bestselling author Roza Vallo hosts a writing retreat at her remote estate for aspiring writers under thirty-years-old. When Alex finds out that she’s been chosen for this exclusive retreat, she’s excited but there’s a problem. She’s had writer’s block for a year. On top of that, her ex-best friend, who she had a fight with a year before, has also been chosen to go to the retreat. The experience isn’t what they expected. Roza wants them to each write a complete novel, writing 3,000 words a day to complete it in a month. However, the women begin to feel trapped, and strange things start happening. It isn’t just their writing careers that are at stake, but their lives as well. 

I loved the premise of this book. It would be a dream come true for me to go to a writing retreat with my favourite author! I can’t imagine having the privilege of doing that. The thriller aspects of this story were good, but there were some strange scenes. 

The strange scenes involved hallucinations and dreams. It gave the story a bit of a fantasy side, which disrupted the intense thriller. There were also some references to homosexuality and race in publishing that didn’t really make the impact they should have. It felt like some attempted representation that was thrown into the story without a purpose or without fully making a statement. 

The Writing Retreat was an intense and unusual thriller. 

Thank you Simon and Schuster Canada and Tandem Collective for providing a copy of this book.

What to read next:

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

Have you read The Writing Retreat? What did you think of it?


Author: jilljemmett

Jill lives in Toronto, Canada. She has studied English, Creative Writing, and Publishing. Jill is the creator and content producer of Jill’s Book Blog, where she has published a blog post every day for the last four years, including 5-7 book reviews a week. She can usually be found with her nose in a book.

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