Looking Glass Sound by Catriona Ward
-release date: August 8, 2023
-genre: horror, thriller, mystery thriller, adult fiction
-publisher: Tor Nightfire
Set on a sleepy New England coast, LOOKING GLASS SOUND by Catriona Ward is a modern gothic masterpiece that kept me guessing from the first page to the last, and I loved it! It’s the latest release from American-British novelist Ward, whose previous titles— including The Last House on Needless Street, Sundial, and Little Eve— took the horror world by storm and racked up impressive accolades, including a record-breaking triple win of the August Derleth Award at the British Fantasy Awards in 2016, 2019, and 2022 (for Rawblood, Little Eve, and The Last House on Needless Street) and the Shirley Jackson Award in 2019 (for Little Eve).... and I definitely have seen some positive— and 100% well-deserved— buzz swirling for Looking Glass Sound already too! Though it already debuted in the UK in late April, it finally made its US release on August 8th of this year; it centers on an aging memoirist, the horrors of the past, and twisted secrets in a seaside town.
My rating: 5 stars
Y’all, I’ll be honest— when I finished reading this book (on a rainy Sunday afternoon, no less!), I sat stock-still for at least half an hour, simply ruminating on what I’d just devoured. This book is deceptively dense in the best possible ways; its 352 pages are full of competing timelines, complex storylines, and some uber-unreliable narrators— and the ache of inescapable trauma creeps in when you least expect it, amidst the haze of 1980s adolescence and the anxiety of adulthood. We focus primarily on Wilder Harrow, an awkward teen who spends a summer with his frequently-fighting parents at his late-uncle’s cottage in the town of Whistler Bay. Soon, he meets two coastal visitors, Nathaniel (Nat) Pelletier and Harper; he’s smitten with Harper, a troubled English girl with a penchant for alcohol, and fast friends with Nat, but the trio stumbles into trouble in the secret caves— and their lives are forever changed, infinitely more so when truths are revealed about each of their own pasts.
But this story doesn’t stay solely within Whistler Bay; after two stressful summers, Wilder begins his time at college in inland Pennsylvania and meets the mysterious Sky, who throws a new wrench into the plan of what Wilder thought he knew about himself… and there’s Pearl, too, whose story trickles out throughout the book in glimpses and mystic rituals. Pearl, actually, might’ve been my favorite part of the entire book— her sections offered us a new perspective on previous events, and she shepherded in some brilliant meta elements of the story at large. I’ve seen the “book within a book” thing occasionally done well, and I’ve seen it done horribly too, but with Looking Glass Sound, it’s done exquisitely. It’s not an easy read, that’s for sure— both because of the subject matter and the convoluted threads that tie it together— but it’s a perfect story to get lost in!
Thank you to the publicity team at Tor Nightfire for an ARC to read and review— as always, my thoughts are my own! Please contact me on Instagram (@spoonie.reads) or via my business email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for physical book review copy requests, and check out my abridged review for this book (and many more!) on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spoonie.reads/