Sundial by Catriona Ward review

Profile Books

Sundial by Catriona Ward is one of those books that gets under your skin. Beginning in an upper-middle class suburb, Rob’s daughter has just come down with chickenpox before their next-door neighbour’s annual pool party.

There is an undercurrent of foreboding that strikes up almost immediately, as Rob’s strained and toxic relationship with her husband is revealed and a wariness of her older daughter Callie is implied. However, it’s not until she and Callie arrive at Sundial, Rob’s family compound in the middle of the desert, that the true horror unfolds.

In the context of her upbringing, Rob begins to tell the story of her unusual childhood to her daughter, whose own demons have followed them to the ranch. The story moves to unexpected places, involving animal experimentation, rituals and rites and child-like means of escape, and constantly keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.

Ward is a skilled storyteller, and the characters are very well realised. Sundial is never less than ominous, but is tinged with humour and not a little pathos. Perfectly made for reading while a shower of rain pitter-patters on your window, but perhaps not while sipping a pina colada by the pool.

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on 08 06 22.

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