Trevor Riddell travels with his father to their crumbling ancestral home in rural Washington state. It is the summer of 1990, and his parents are having a trial separation. Fourteen year old Trevor knows he has to do everything he can to help get their marriage back on track. The house lies in a huge estate, overlooking Puget Sound, and is reportedly haunted.
I was expecting this to be quite a tough read. It’s author, Garth Stein, wrote the international bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain which I always assumed would be wordy and literary. However the prose was great – cleanly written, atmospheric and unpretentious. Despite dealing with some very dark themes, it does feel almost like it’s aimed at the YA (young adult) market. The setting is wonderfully evocative, rich in texture and atmosphere, with an interesting setup with just a few characters. the relationship between the various family members was intriguing, with the text hinting at secrets and a complex history. I really enjoying hearing about the history of the family, albeit some of the documents meant to have been written at the start of the last century (and the dialogue in some of the dream sequences or flashbacks) felt a little modern for that time.
A Sudden Light is an excellent coming of age story, one that isn’t too demanding, yet with enough surprises and emotion to thoroughly enjoy it. There is a real gothic sense to the proceedings, with an underlying aura of tragedy. The house itself is almost a prominent character in the story. I’d definitely be interested in reading more of Stein’s work. Recommended.