Burnt Out by Victoria Brookman, Review: Engaging advocacy

Victoria Brookman’s debut novel Burnt Out is an engaging combination of contemporary drama and climate change advocacy. Read my review.

Burnt Out Book Synopsis

Burnt Out Review - Victoria Brookman

How do you start again when your life is a smoking ruin?

She lost everything in a bushfire and became the celebrity face of climate change. But is fame and living with a billionaire all it’s cracked up to be? A warm and witty story for our times.

‘Here’s to rising from the ashes …’

Calida Lyons is having a very bad week. She’s long past deadline for her still unwritten second novel; her husband has just left her; and her Blue Mountains community is being threatened by bushfires. Just as she hits rock bottom, she’s forced to shelter with neighbours while a fire incinerates everything she owns.

Devastated and emotional in front of news cameras, Cali delivers a blistering, unfiltered rebuke to the nation’s rich to do something

Her rant goes viral, and she quickly becomes the latest celebrity face of the climate movement. Soon she’s offered a harbourside refuge by handsome tech billionaire Arlo Richard, her publisher is delighted with the new novel she’s writing, and she’s the darling of high society.

But things aren’t as they seem. It’s all built on lies, and Cali’s pretty sure that the precarious house of cards she’s built is about to come tumbling down.

(HarperCollins, January 2022)

Genre: Drama, Romance, Literature

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Book Review

Victoria Brookman’s debut novel Burnt Out is an intriguing combination of contemporary romance and at times darkly humourous social commentary. Some may class the latter element satire, but on reflection, I actually felt this story is a more authentic depiction of the real-world situation than many would like to admit. Which is wonderfully apt because, while this novel serves as a compelling reminder about the need for climate change action, underlying that is a simple but nonetheless stirring battle cry for living authentic lives.

Burnt Out‘s leading lady Calida Lyons is not wholly endearing. If like me, you find self-sabotagists downright infuriating, then you will not warm to her at the outset. But, you will warm to, or at the very least feel sympathy for some of the very genuine characters trying to help her. And, I immediately engaged with Brookman’s writing style that oozes a knowing, yet understated intelligence.

Cali entered the studio warily, terrified that the dam of climate knowledge would burst, and she’d be left sitting there looking a fool, full of nothing but hot air.

Brookman brings to life the sights, sounds and tension in the Blue Mountains during fire season with evocative descriptions, and her use of short and precise chapters keeps this story’s telling moving at a cracking pace.

After Calida battles her real and imagined demons, Brookman offers readers a satisfying conclusion. However, what I most admired about this debut was its exploration of the grey area that is ‘compromise’. As we move from child- to adulthood we are taught that compromise is an integral part of life. But, the caveat that often goes astray, is that compromises live on a sliding scale. Meaning it is a slippery slope, one we all need to tread carefully and find a spot that feels right for us to build our lives on.

Burnt Out is a strong debut from Victoria Brookman – an author saying important things in an engaging way.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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About the Author, Victoria Brookman

Victoria Brookman is an author, activist and academic. She lives with her family in the Blue Mountains, on Darug and Gundungurra country. Victoria worked for a number of years as a political staffer and was the Labor candidate for the seat of Bradfield in the Kevin 07 Federal Election. Victoria was one of the early founding members of Destroy the Joint, the founder and spokesperson of Lactivists Australia, and from 2012-15 she organised and emceed the Sydney International Women’s Day March. She studied English and creative writing at the University of Sydney and Macquarie University, and is currently a doctoral candidate at Western Sydney University. She enjoys writing, bushwalking, and watching the footy. Check out her website and connect with her on Goodreads.

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2022.

* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.