Sundial is a twisting tale of a family and the horrors that lie beneath the surface, as a mother and daughter take a trip to an old family home. Rob appears to have a normal suburban life with her husband Irving and her two daughters, Callie and Annie. However, she fears for them, for the strangeness of Callie and for what she could do to Annie, and when she thinks Callie has become too dangerous, she takes her to Sundial, her own childhood home in the Mojave desert. But Sundial is a place filled with secrets, and Callie is scared of what her mother might do to her, as she learns the story of her mother’s past.
I’ve not read Catriona Ward before but heard hype around The Last House on Needless Street, and I didn’t know what to expect going into this one. What it turned out to be was an unsettling story of ideas of who is good and bad, centred around a woman whose part wasn’t quite what she thought it was. The opening feels disarmingly regular, showing a marriage in breakdown and fears about children, but nothing particular weird, and then once you start to learn about Sundial, things get weirder, into a world of science experiments and doubleness and what you have to do to really protect someone. I enjoyed the twists and turns, even when they were a bit outlandish, and the ending works well, leaving a creepy lingering sense of ambiguity.
Without wanting to give away much more, I will say that Sundial is a slowly tense read that unfolds multiple stories that leave you never quite sure what exactly is meant to be true.