The Red House
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An dazzlingly inventive novel about modern family, from the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
The set-up of Mark Haddon's brilliant new novel is simple: 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. As we come to know each character they become profoundly real to us. We understand them, even as we come to realize they will never fully understand each other, which is the tragicomedy of every family.
The Red House is a literary tour-de-force that illuminates the puzzle of family in a profoundly empathetic manner -- a novel sure to entrance the millions of readers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
Hard to stick with
I found this book hard to stick with. The constant changes between voices and frequent segues to poetry or other quotations had me skipping ahead a lot.
I thought that this book was great in the beginning but it slowly began to lose my interest near the end.
Lacked a Deeper Connection for the Reader
The Red House is actually my first introduction to the writing of Mark Haddon, and as previous readers have written, it lacked a little something special for me.
Perhaps the easiest connection for any reader to make with The Red House is the fact that interacting with and understanding one's own family is never easy. Much like the central character siblings Angela and Richard, it's very easy to realize that while you may have grown up together, you are not the same as your sibling–you viewed your upbringing with two very different sets of eyes, and blood does not guarantee or create an intimate connection. The focus is largely based on the friction between the two; however, friction exists amongst the two characters' own individual families as well.
Much like the reader, Richard is still learning about the character of his new wife, Louisa, and her teenage daughter, Melissa. Alternatively, Angela at times mistakenly believes too firmly that she knows her family (a husband, Dominic, two teenage children, Alex and Daisy, and eight year old Benjamin, or Benjy), they do not know her. However, the reader soon finds that Angela's family is more insightful than she initially believes, and that even Angela does not quite understand herself.
Often, the book read more like a work of literature to be studied rather than simply enjoyed. While reading, I could easily see myself returning just a few years back to high school, where my class might dissect a chapter or two of the book to elaborate upon its meaning.
Obviously, Mr. Haddon has worked very hard to emphasize the character over the plot–we are fully immersed into what a character may be thinking, feeling, seeing, reading, or even listening to on an iPod. Unfortunately, what actually allowed me to gain insight into a character, or even feel a slight connection to them, was the limited dialogue between them.
To me, some of the most diverse, and thereby interesting, characters include Louisa, Benjy, and Daisy; however, we receive less character information about the first, and more information about what the latter two are reading, dreaming, or seeing opposed to truly feeling or believing.
True to its realism, the climax and closing of the book leaves the reader and its characters not quite on stable ground. A short holiday is not enough to mend all fences or truly understand what lies beneath the surface of each character.
- Category: Family
- Published: Jun 12, 2012
- Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Seller: Random House, LLC
- Print Length: 272 Pages
- Language: English