Sundial by Catriona Ward

Posted On 10 March 2022

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : Can’t tear your eyes away

Sundial

Sundial is a twisted, psychological horror story that held me riveted to the page.  In fairness to new readers of Ward I’m not going to bandy around words such as ‘loved’ or even it’s much maligned cousin ‘liked’.  This is not that sort of story.  This is a tale instead that will keep you bound to it until the final page turns when, in full possession of all the whys and wherefores, you can close the book, let your heart return to a semblance of normality and try to recover the sleep you’ve lost over the past ‘x’ number of nights that you read into the early hours.

I don’t think this is a story that I can really say too much about in terms of plot without spoiling it so I’m going to go easy on descriptions.  Basically, try and imagine an almost picture perfect family, husband (Irving), Wife (Rob) and two daughters Callie and her slightly younger sister Annie.  To the outside world they have a lovely home, good jobs, a caring relationship and a perfect white picket fence existence.  Take that fly on the wall view and instead you see an incredibly toxic, dysfunctional family who are all pulling and pushing against each other in such hateful ways that their life is barely tolerable.  Add into the mix a lot of secrets from the past and some eventual reveals that quite literally left me gaping like a fish.  What more can I say, this is horrible horror, it’s brutal in parts, spooky in others, ridiculously scary as it reaches its crescendo and frankly gripping in a heart in your throat type of way.

Firstly, the characters.  Well, I certainly struggled to like any of them initially which seems to have been the author’s intentions.  Ward has gone for a ‘let’s throw everyone into the hideous mixing pot, I liked this approach to be honest.  You’re initially on your guard, you’re puzzled about what’s going on with everyone and then like peeling back the onion layers you slowly discover the character motivations and with the revelations, and understanding they inspire, you see certain characters in a whole new light.

The story is told in an interesting way.  We jump back and forward in time with Rob to witness her upbringing and her present dilemma.  What can I say about Rob’s backstory – not much without giving things away unfortunately. But, by way of background, Rob and her twin sister lived a very alternative style of life growing up.  Brought up in the most remote, and perhaps unusual circumstances.  Their home is in the desert, they’re homeschooled and lead a very sheltered life – one that starts to fray a little when the girls become teenagers and start to push at the boundaries.  On top of this their home is also used for scientific experiments which are a little bit horrible to say the least.  Callie also jumps in to narrate at certain points and her chapters are quite spooky.  And there are a few chapters interspersed that are a story within a story.

The writing is, well, brilliant.  I love the way this author tells a story.  She’s got a wicked imagination!  Her descriptions are perfect, she sets a scene with ease and she has the ability to create tension and fear that you can almost taste.  The desert setting was something of an inspired touch too, it lends itself so very well to the overall feel.

Overall I found Sundial a compelling read, it’s definitely dark, it has more twists and turns than a twisty turny thing and it’s literally impossible to put down.

Now, I will just mention here that if you’re thinking of picking this one up you need to be aware of certain elements that may be upsetting, particularly abuse and animal cruelty.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

13 Responses to “Sundial by Catriona Ward”

  1. Kate @ Feathered Turtle Press

    I’ve heard good things about Catriona Ward and your review adds to that list! This one is definitely on my tbr, plus that is SUCH a great cover 😍

    • @lynnsbooks

      She’s such an inventive author, definitely bringing something new to the table and her writing style is really lovely to read. I hope you get a chance to read one of her books.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Zezee

    Great review! Makes me so curious about it. I’ll add it to my Goodreads.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, this and Needless Street by the same author are very unusual. She has a really creative streak and a way of writing that only slowly reveals things to keep you guessing.
      Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Your sentence about a story that can (and must!) be peeled in layers like an onion makes this book a very intriguing proposition! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, she’s a clever author. She starts you off in a strange way because she makes you dislike all the characters, then she starts to peel off the facade and different things are revealed that change your opinion.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Ah, I need to make time to read this soon. Heard it was weird too, but actually sounds like the kind I like!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I’d probably say unusual – but everything is eventually revealed.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Lexlingua

    I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the cover either. I gazed at that cover for quite a long time, to understand what it was that I was seeing! And I see Stephen King recommending it, which make me more nervous about picking it up.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, I can understand the nerves, this is unusual and I can also understand why King recommended it – it is good, horrible and horrific too.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Gobookmart.com

    Spooky, strange and stunning. Thanks for sharing this. We have also reviewed this novel. Do read our review and share your comments. https://gobookmart.com/sundial-by-catriona-ward-is-spooky-strange-and-stunning/

  7. Tammy

    I cant believe I missed this review! Anyway, so glad you “enjoyed” it (might not be the right word). She has a way with words, and I’ll pick up anything she writes😁

  8. WordsAndPeace

    Probably great writing, but I will have to pass on this one by Ward

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