Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Red House by Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon, author of the fabulous Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Boom! (among others), has a new book: The Red House. I loved it from the start.

Richard and Angela, a brother and sister who have long been estranged, spend a week together at a rental cottage in the English countryside, along with their respective families. Richard has recently re-married and has gained a teenage step-daughter.

All eight characters have their unique personal dramas. Angela's eldest child, Alex, and her middle child, Daisy, are both attracted to their new cousin, Melissa. It is Daisy's first realization that she might be a lesbian. She is surprised that her parents and aunt don't think it's a big deal: "Why was everyone else so fucking pleasant? At least Melissa reacted. Daisy wanted it to spin through their lives like a typhoon, ripping stuff apart."

Meanwhile, other secrets have more potential for family destruction. The viewpoint keeps shifting between all of the protagonists, giving a rounded perspective. Along with the realistic characters, Haddon's lively writing style is a big part of the attraction. He doesn't bother with extra words in describing the scenery: "Outside the damp green world sliding by. Ash and poplar. Cord moss and hart's-tongue fern." Bits of text from various books being read at the cottage are added to the mix. It is all very satisfying.

Readalikes: The Accidental (Ali Smith) and The Gathering (Anne Enright).


Ryan said...

I like Mark Haddon'd previous work. I'll be checking this out. Thanks for the review.

Lindy said...

Ryan, I've noticed in your reviews that you are a careful reader, paying close attention to details. I think you will find The Red House very rewarding. By the way, I really enjoyed your review of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.