Sam Radford

April 8, 2021

Book Notes: “A Bright Ray of Darkness” by Ethan Hawke

Let me be honest: I was hesitant about picking up this book.

Was it going to be another actor attempting to – badly –  try their hand at something else. Using their fame to sell a few copies of something bang average. 

And would I be able to see past Ethan Hawke and get lost in the story? 

Even though this isn’t Hawke’s first novel, I was still wary.

Blissfully, I needn’t have had any worries. A Bright Ray of Darkness is quite wonderful. My favourite novel of 2021. And by some distance. 

The writing is exquisite. The story-telling is evocative and moving. And the main character, William Harding – a movie star whose life is falling apart – has a depth and a rawness to him that is captivating.

The way the story is set around Harding’s role playing Hotspur in Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” on Broadway is brilliantly done. Watching him deal with the fallout from his own affair, his wife leaving him, and trying to figure out who he is and who he wants to be, all while trying to give his all to the performance is exhilarating. 

The book explores so many themes. Love and lust. Family and fatherhood. Drugs and alcohol. Sex. Theatre. Celebrity. And plenty more. It’s a rich and fulfilling read.

My only frustration? How did Ethan Hawke get to be so damned good at both acting and writing?!

–Sam