Book review: A Sudden Light

a sudden light by garth stein 22-9-14How to define this story? It’s a coming of age tale, a ghost story, it’s about forests and trees and about man’s responsibility to nature. I loved it, one of the best books I‘ve read this year and quite different from everything else.

Garth Stein [below] is a new author for me. I was attracted to this book by three features: the ethereal cover, the setting in the Pacific North-Western corner of the US, and the family/saga ghost story combination.

Trevor’s parents are separated. His mother has flown home to England for the summer while Trevor visits for the first time his ancestral home on the Olympic Peninsula outside Seattle. Trevor’s objective is to repair his parents’ marriage, he is not sure how. But from the first day he and his father, Jones, arrive at Riddell House on The North Estate, everything seems strange. The house is enormous, built by Trevor’s great-great-grandfather Elijah Riddell a century earlier, testament to Elijah’s riches earned from his logging business. It is a mansion, built from timber, set amongst trees, isolated and rotting. The house is at the centre of this story; its physicality, its history, what it meant to Elijah and his son Ben, and what the sale of it could mean to the current Riddell generation: much needed cash. Trevor meets his aunt Serena [she asks him to call her Simply Serena] and his Grandfather Samuel, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. The mysteries start from day one. garth stein - photo 22-9-14Is the ghost of Jones and Serena’s mother dancing upstairs? What exactly is Serena’s agenda, is she trying to seduce 14-year old Trevor? Is Grandfather Samuel speaking rubbish, or not? And what secret is Jones hiding? Money is at the centre of this tale, a family who earned fortunes as the 19th century turned into the 20th by forging timber links with the railroads. That same family now has a mansion which is falling into ruin, while Jones is newly bankrupt after the failure of his boatbuilding business.

Everyone has an agenda at Riddell House that summer, including Trevor.

To watch the book trailer for A Sudden Light, click here.
To visit Garth Stein’s website, click here.
Click here to explore the North Estate, the enigmatic setting for A Sudden Light.
‘A Sudden Light’ by Garth Stein [UK: Simon & Schuster]

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