26 March 2012

The Red House; Mark Haddon

The Red House: A NovelThe Red House: A Novel by Mark Haddon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is very different than either Curious Incident... or A Spot of Bother both stylistically and in terms of plot. Instead of one narrative thread, we get to see the action from the differing viewpoints of all seven characters (Richard, his second wife Louise and her daughter Melissa, his sister Angela and Angela's husband Dominic and her children Alex, Daisy and Benjy). At times that can make it difficult to determine whose voice and thoughts we're hearing.

In simple terms, this is the story of an estranged brother and sister taking a week's vacation in a self-catering cottage with their families. The goal is to somehow bridge the gap between the siblings now that their mother has died; it's unclear at the end if that goal has been met. Of course there are undercurrents of other problems - Angela mourning the death of her stillborn Karen (the week includes what would have been Karen's 18th birthday), Dominic's recovery from a breakdown, Daisy's involvement with a Christian church, etc. - all of which get touched upon but not necessarily wrapped up in one tidy package by the end of the book. That's not a bad thing, in that life is rarely tidily wrapped up for us.

In addition to the confusion over who is speaking/acting when, the style is sometimes one of choppy sentence fragments or what feel like bullet point lists. What that might have been intended to add to the sense that we're intruding on a family's life, it just irritated me when it appeared to have no relevance to the action or characters.

ARC provided by publisher.

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