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Heatwave by Victor Jestin, translated by Sam Taylor - Review

Monday, February 13, 2023

I picked this book up in Waterstones a few weeks back, because I was intrigued by the premise of it. I started it at the end of January, and it just took me a couple of days to read because it's not very long, it's a novella really. I don't often read books in translation but every now and then I do, and I always really enjoy them when I do. I did feel like here there were a few phrases that seemed to have been translated a little oddly, but mostly I liked it.

The book is set in France, in Landes in south west France, on the type of campsite where I spent an awful lot of my formative years so could imagine perfectly. While the book is obviously set in pretty much present day, which is obvious due to the use of mobile phones/camera phones, it has a feeling that it could be set basically any time from the 1970s until now. It's got a real timeless feeling, like you might be at the campsite forever, every summer, for the rest of your life. 

So, the story. Leonard is a shy seventeen year old, plagued by body insecurities and the fact that he can't seem to talk to girls. He is on holiday with his parents, his fifteen year old brother, and his younger sister. Oh and their dog, Bubble. At the beginning of the novel Leo watches as Oscar, a popular boy, strangles himself to death on the ropes of a swing. Leo doesn't try to help, and doesn't then raise the alarm when Oscar has died. He then decides to bury Oscar's body in a sand dune on the beach. It's late, and all the parties have finished, so no one sees him do it. Leo goes to bed, ready for his family's last day at the camp.

On the Saturday, Leo feels immediately guilty over Oscar, feels Oscar's body calling to him, and feels awful throughout the day. He talks to two girls, one of whom was kind of having a thing with Oscar. He speaks to Oscar's mum, who is not at first alarmed by Oscar's disappearance, but who reports him missing later on. The book is set over twenty four hours and I really liked it. I'm giving it four out of five. 

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