Laura Whitcomb’s “A Certain Slant of Light”
I was having a slow day at work, and when I was sorting out reservations for books, I found A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. It was reserved by a work collegue, and since she generally has good taste in everything, I read the blurb, was intensely intrigued and left a post-it on the book saying ‘Let me know what this book is like once you have finished’. That she did, telling me that she blubbed like a baby at the end of the story.
Encouraged, I took the book up myself. The first quarter of the book is the strongest, with the protagonist’s love interest echoing the same air of mystery and puzzlement as the hero of the Twilight series. It all starts in a classroom in high school; the boy gives her particular attention that she does not understand, and she is uncontrollably drawn to him. She abandons the only existence as a ghost and drastically changes into a living form to be with her new infatuation.
So far. So Twilight. But where as Twilight goes on to become a ridiculous fan-fictitious farce, this novel remains more grounded and though it never verges on the ridiculous, it does seem to lose track and the impulse to keep turning pages slackens towards the end. The problem begins when the heroine is able to be a physical being, and the issue at hand seems to no longer be the protagonist and her new found relationship, but the family of the girl’s body she “saves”. The sudden and intense inclusion of fundamental religion is disconcerting and off-putting. My excitement from the beginning of the novel was positively cooled by the direction that the story had taken, and the ending did nothing to cause satisfaction.
This is by no means a terrible book. Whitcomb’s vision of the spiritual world is quite compelling and I found myself utterly curious about it from the moment I read the first page. This novel easily reigns you in, and its simple, yet beautiful, writing style makes it not only accessible but also a joy to read. There are some excellent metaphors and similies in here (one that made me chuckle was: ‘Stubbornly I bumped against the same window time and again, like a moth with no memory.’) There are also a string of literary references (the protagonist is obsessed with Literature), and if you are an enthusiast yourself, this adds another dimension to the literary devices of the novel.
It is, perhaps, too self-aware, and you can only cringe slightly when the author insists on her own talent (“Why was that a good description?” she has her Literature teacher ask his class), but I never once thought that something was clumsy or out of place (like one would do so often with Stephenie Meyer). The drawback of this novel is the weak ending – it’s mostly what led to this weak ending, but the actual ending in itself is really disappointing. If the novel had taken the same course throughout, I may have recommended it to you without a trace of doubt, but I would perhaps suggest that you borrow this book either from a friend or a library to be on the safe side.