Skip to content

Book Review: The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

If The Villa isn’t on my best books of the year list come December, then I’ll have had a bloody good reading year.

Amazingly, this was on my anticipated books of 2023 just last week and I’ve already finished it, instead of leaving it on my kindle for weeks or months. Maybe this is the start of a new dawn for me, maybe I’ve finally cracked reading a book as soon as I buy it….I suppose time will tell.

Anywho back to The Villa, this is the first book I’ve read by Rachel Hawkins, it won’t be the last, I was gripped by this gothic mystery/thriller/drama, and I’ll be exploring her other work because if they’re even half as good as The Villa, they’ll be superb.

So, in 1974 sisters Mari and Lara are invited to stay at Villa Aestas in Orvieto. Technically, its Mari’s boyfriend, Pierce, who’s had the invite from renowned rock star Noel Gordon, making up the group is Johnnie.

During the long summer, Mari sets about writing the greatest horror novel of all time, Lara starts creating what would become a platinum selling album but under the hot Italian sun, tensions boil over and before the summer is over, Pierce is dead.

In the present day, broken hearted, novelist Em has joined her best friend, wildly successful lifestyle guru, Chess, at the same villa.

Em needs a break from her soon to be ex-husband and to meet her deadline on her latest book. She also sees it as an opportunity to reconnect with her best friend, now in their 30s the two have drifted apart and have a somewhat strained relationship.

During their stay, Em starts looking into Pierce’s death further. Was it really just a case of sex, drugs and rock n roll getting out of hand or is there a more sinister story behind his death. Is Em about to uncover a huge story and can she really trust her best friend?

I loved how this book unfolded, it is a slow burn thriller, the dual storylines are cleverly intertwined and both equally compelling, I honestly couldn’t decide which I was more invested in.

In the present day, I liked the tension between “best friends” Em and Chess. I wouldn’t say either woman was especially likeable. I really didn’t trust Chess; I was wary of her motivations and there were occasions where I wondered how these two had managed to be acquaintances for so long let alone “best friends”.

Em was less annoying, but still incredibly snippy and at times, rude, however, that didn’t stop me enjoying that part of the story. I loved how I discovered pieces of the 1974 mystery at the same time as Em. Every time I was expecting the next piece to be filled in, Hawkins would switch timelines and leave me on a cliff hanger. Well played Hawkins, well played. The result was that I couldn’t stop reading.

Em believes the truth to 1974 lays hidden in Mari’s writing, Lillith Rising, the book she writes while on her creative retreat after all, Mari’s book opens with the words, “Houses remember.” 

Rather chilling considering her boyfriend ends up murdered in questionable circumstances.

I really enjoyed the seventies storyline, I liked seeing the relationships slowly unravel, the rose-tinted glasses starting to fall away. I liked trying to piece together what I thought had happened. I thought anyone could have been behind Pierce’s murder, I couldn’t wait to see what had unfolded and who was behind it. 

I loved the nod to Mary Shelley’s own trip to Villa Diodati, a vacation that included her stepsister, Lord Byron, atrocious weather, and a lot of arguments. Dealing with this lot, Mary Shelley ended up writing Frankenstein.

The best part of this storyline is seeing how Mari grows. She becomes stronger and begins to take control of her life, she starts to see Pierce for who he is and switches from muse to ultimate creator, it’s bloody brilliant to see.

It’s a book full of suspense, I too became obsessed with getting to the truth. There were some twists that I didn’t find overly surprising but that didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of this book.

For me, it is a must read.

radiosarahc View All

Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm

18 thoughts on “Book Review: The Villa by Rachel Hawkins Leave a comment

    • I can see how it could split opinion 😂 it was just what I was in the mood for. Right book at the right time and a glorious setting, especially during a very bleak and wet UK winter 😂😂😂


  1. I haven’t read this before, but it sounds like you enjoyed it. I can’t buy any more books until I have finished my small to be read pile. I am currently reading Party Crasher by Sophie Kinsella.
    Thank you for sharing your well written review!
    Lauren – bournemouthgirl

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have read a couple of books by Rachel Hawkins and find many of her characters are unlikable. They are also a bit out there, but I still enjoy them. This one sounds like another winner. Great review, Sarah.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: