Books

Headshot by Rita Bullwinkel review – a depth of feeling like a punch to the guts

This visceral debut novel examines the idea of female intimacy through competition and violence

Headshot by Rita Bullwinkel is out now (Daunt Books, £9.99)

Rita Bullwinkel’s debut novel, Headshot, has a depth of feeling that is like a punch to the guts. The entire book is set over the course of a women’s 18-and-under boxing championship in Reno, Nevada, each of the chapters detailing a specific bout and the two girls involved.

That’s a pretty unusual idea for a start, and the reader is thrown into the deep end as the first two boxers square up in the ring. The novel then switches between the thoughts of all eight quarter-finalists, moving backwards and forwards in time, looking at the girls’ histories and struggles in getting to this stage, and their future lives too, how this experience will leave traces within them forever.

It’s a radical kind of book, examining the idea of female intimacy through competition and violence. Bullwinkel writes beautifully about how these young women exist in their bodies, how that changes their view of the world, and what it means for them.

And Headshot is another book that uses the specific details of its fictional world to make wider connections with the reader. Bullwinkel writes brilliantly about the physicality of the boxers but also about their psychologies, as well as how the two things are interlinked. Unusual and fascinating, and all the better for that.   

Doug Johnstone is an author and journalist.

Headshot by Rita Bullwinkel is out now (Daunt Books, £9.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.
This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!
If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.
You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Weighted Down: The Complicated Life of Skip Spence review – sensitive portrait of a free spirit
Books

Weighted Down: The Complicated Life of Skip Spence review – sensitive portrait of a free spirit

Prospect Cottage: See inside artist Derek Jarman's seaside home for the first time
Photography

Prospect Cottage: See inside artist Derek Jarman's seaside home for the first time

Cocktails with George and Martha by Philip Gefter review – art imitating life in a war of egos  
Books

Cocktails with George and Martha by Philip Gefter review – art imitating life in a war of egos  

Top 5 books about the Troubles, chosen by bestselling author Henry Hemming 
Books

Top 5 books about the Troubles, chosen by bestselling author Henry Hemming 

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know