When Mark Haddon writes, you sit up and take notice. There are no two ways to that thought – at least not for me. I remember reading, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” in 2003 and being taken in by the spectacular writing style and the first person narration. In the same way, I enjoyed reading, “A Spot of Bother” – very different from the first one and equally breath-taking.
I was then mailed an Advanced Reader’s Copy of, “The Red House” and my joy knew no bounds. The book is about middle-class angst and it works on so many levels, in terms of being able to relate to it. A great deal does not happen in the book. Do not expect twists and turns. Having said that, the book is a great read.
An adult brother and sister take their respective families on a holiday together in a cottage in Wales, following their mother’s death. The book is about the eight main characters’ thoughts, interactions with each other, and individual experiences. In my experience, when narratives shift in almost every chapter, the novel becomes boring and confusing to the reader. This does not happen with this book. Each character has a distinct voice (one of the clear talents of a good writer) and knows what to say and when.
The characters are: Angela, the sister and a working mom, on the verge of a breakdown, Dominic – Angela’s unemployed husband, their teenage son Alex, their religious daughter Daisy, their young son Benjy – living in his fantasy world, Richard – Angela’s estranged brother, Louisa – his wife and Melissa, his manipulative daughter.
Through these characters Haddon plays a week in the book, moving between each character – almost as swiftly as paragraph to the next. The book gave me the ever-changing, fascinating and the feeling that I was looking through a looking glass. The eight of them have their own secrets, longings and resentments which only make them as human as you and I. The writing zips in montages and sometimes it becomes difficult to figure who is carrying the baton, though once you get used to the writing, it isn’t difficult to figure.
The language and symbolism is weaved very well for a story of a dysfunctional family. In some parts, it almost reminded me of Faulkner’s, “The Sound and the Fury”, however those parts were rare. As a reader, you are left with many questions of the families’ future at the end of the book, but I guess that’s a great job done for the writer, if his/her readers are still thinking about the characters, way after the book has been devoured.
The Red House by Mark Haddon is a rollercoaster of emotions and all it works surprisingly well and all adds up at the end of the book. I would definitely and most certainly recommend this read for the long summer weekend that comes up.