I read Laura Whitcomb’s A Certain Slant of Light (Light #1) last year (I think?) and have just finished reading the sequel Under The Light so I thought I may as well do a review of both for this post.
Usually I don’t really like ghost stories, but I’ve read a couple this year that I’ve really enjoyed, The Moment Collector and Whitcomb’s second Light novel. Of course, there are always times when I think the paranormal thing is a bit…forced and stupid, to be honest. I did find that to be the case at some points in both of the Light novels, but I also found that Whitcomb deals with it in a clever way that actually makes it (a bit) believable. The whole ghost thing at least has a methodology to it and it makes enough sense not to drive me crazy and for me to really enjoy the story of Helen and James and then the story of Jenny and Billy.
Basically A Certain Slant of Light follows Helen and James’s spirits as they possess the bodies of Jenny and Billy so as to enjoy being in love and being able to touch each other the way normal couples do. They are only able to use the bodies because Jenny and Billy’s spirits have temporarily left, but there is still a lot of guilt in the case of Helen particularly, which you see in the sequel Under The Light. It’s all a bit more complicated than that, and I won’t try to explain the world of that categorises spirits as The Light and humans as The Quick as you’ll surely get the hang of it if you ever decide to read the novels.
One of the things I really liked about both novels is Whitcomb’s writing style. It’s quite poetic and descriptive and I think she does a great job bringing us into the world of these two spirits and two humans, whose lives crossover in a really interesting way. I really do think Whitcomb is quite brilliant in that way.
She also does a great job bringing in themes of religion, wherein Jenny’s family is extremely religious to the point that Jenny feels imprisoned, and Billy’s family is more (from what I can remember at least) atheist. It definitely creates an interesting dynamic between the characters and shows different insights into beliefs and family values. Both Jenny and Billy have difficult home lives, which you get to see from Helen and James in the first novel and from the humans themselves in the second, when their spirits have returned to their bodies. Helen and James’ pasts are also really interesting and brings forth a lot of grief and sorrow on their part.
Another thing that really works in both novels is the love story element. I mean, there’s nothing worse about a novel that centres around love and the love part sucks. But no, I really enjoyed both love stories. I have read some reviews that believe that Helen and James, in A Certain Slant of Light, move into sex too soon and it seems unrealistic. While it is true that the first of the Light novels is heavier on the sex than the second, I don’t think that it’s in any way realistic. A natural part of falling in love is wanting to have sex and that just happens to be how Helena and James, once they have bodies, are able to express their love, especially after not having had bodies, particularly Helen, in years. Sure, it might seem like Helen and James fall in love a bit fast, but sometimes that is reality. In saying so, I think I enjoyed Billy and Jenny’s story a bit more. I won’t give away the details, but I really thought Under The Light was better at showing the more subtle, slower kind of love, in a way.
A Certain Slant of Light and Under The Light are both well-written, poetic, entertaining, cute and powerful novels that cover a lot of issues to do with religion, family, love, among much more. Even for someone like me (I’m an atheist) I found the whole spirit/heaven thing enjoyable to read. I think that if you’re interested to read a couple of novels that craft together the paranormal and the human in a subtle and much better way than most paranormal novels do (well, that’s just my opinion anyway) you should definitely give Laura Whitcomb a try.