27 April 2022

Review: Sundial by Catriona Ward

Sundial by Catriona Ward book cover

* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

It's almost a year ago since I read The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward and gave it 3 stars in my review, so I was a little surprised to receive her latest release, Sundial. With its stunningly menacing and striking cover design, how could I refuse? Sundial is completely different however somehow just as messed up as The Last House on Needless Street. Both novels are literary horror with a gothic touch, however Sundial introduces a level of science fiction to the mix.

Set deep in an isolated area of the Mojave desert, mother of two girls Rob is worried about the safety of both of her daughters. Callie is afraid of her mother and acting strangely by collecting tiny animal bones. Rob's relationship with her husband is strained and in an effort to sort out their family problems, Rob takes her eldest daughter back to her childhood home for some one-on-one time together.
"Everyone has one story that explains them completely. You are very special, because you have two. They used to be mine, and I passed them down to you." Page 276
Here the reader learns about Rob's childhood which begins to inform the behaviour of the other family members. This is a slow burn, disturbing and unsettling read with a hostile undercurrent. You might expect a high body count in a literary horror novel, but this isn't a bloody read. Sundial is psychologically troubling and will force you to consider what you might do if faced with some of the character's choices.

There are some clever moments in passing, however my favourite moment was on page 162 when Rob entered the code 112263 to open a lock. Did you pick it too? (Sorry, couldn't resist). This is the title of a Stephen King book 11.22.63 and the date JFK was assassinated. I'm not sure if Ward is a JFK or King fan, but it was definitely a fun easter egg to find.

Sundial by Catriona Ward is a gothic literary horror novel about motherhood, sisters, and nature versus nurture and isn't for the faint at heart.

My Rating:

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