The Red House is a pure pleasure

imagesI really, really enjoyed Mark Haddon’s The Red House: A Novel. (This is the same guy who wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog Who Barked in the Night-time.)

There are writers whose work I enjoy and whom, I fancy, I could even emulate.

And then there’s a book like this one. It breaks so many rules, including hopping from head to head to head in a single paragraph. Punctuation was non-standard. Some paragraphs were stream of consciousness, and while I didn’t always follow ever ripple, I still enjoyed it.

I guess when you are a master, then rules are there for the breaking.

Here's the publisher's description:

"Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister Angela and her family to join his for a week at a vacation home in the English countryside. Richard has just re-married and inherited a willful stepdaughter in the process; Angela has a feckless husband and three children who sometimes seem alien to her. The stage is set for seven days of resentment and guilt, a staple of family gatherings the world over.

But because of Haddon's extraordinary narrative technique, the stories of these eight people are anything but simple. Told through the alternating viewpoints of each character, The Red House becomes a symphony of long-held grudges, fading dreams and rising hopes, tightly-guarded secrets and illicit desires, all adding up to a portrait of contemporary family life that is bittersweet, comic, and deeply felt."

Here’s a sampling. The first is a sly commentary on what it means to be a writer:

He’d been looking forward to it for the last couple of weeks. A town of books. All this learning gathered in and offered up. Trawling, browsing, leafing. But now that he was standing in the bowels of the cinema bookshop… That smell. what was it, precisely? Glue? Paper? The spores of some bibliophile lichen? Catacombs of yellowing paper. Every book unwanted, sold for pennies or carted from the houses of the dead. Battersea books home. The authors earned nothing from the transaction. Salaries less than binmen he’d read somewhere. He thought about their lives. No colleagues, no timetable, no security, the constant lure of daytime television. The formlessness of it all made him feel slightly ill, going to work in their dressing gowns. So much risk and so little adventure.

And here’s a bit from POV of eight-year-old Benjy:
Benjy loves being in the countryside, not so much the actual physical contents thereof, horses, windmills, big sticks, panoramas, more then absence of those things which press upon him so insistently at home. He occupies, still, a little circle of attention,  no more than eight meters in diameter at most. If stuff happens beyond this perimeter he simply doesn't notice unless it involves explosions or his name being yelled angrily. At home, in school, on the streets between and around the tow, the word is constantly catching him by surprise, teachers, older boys, drunkk people on the street all suddenly appearing in front of him so that  his most-used facial expression is one of puzzled shock.




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I bet it's a "very high pleasant", too. ;)

Seriously though, I'm glad to hear this book is good--I loved TCIotDWBitNT (jeez, that's a long title, even abbreviated).
I was surprised that it was only getting three stars on Amazon - I was riveted. I think some people didn't like the very things I liked.