‘The Red House’ by Mark Haddon

The Red HousestarstarstarA family holiday in Wales. A brother and sister decide to vacation together with their families after their mother dies. Richard and Angela haven’t been close but perhaps they should build bridges. Richard is recently remarried and has a new step-daughter. Angela and her husband Dominic have three teenage children, but the memory of the fourth who died in miscarriage still haunts.

The week progresses with the eight characters all fighting demons of their own. The author weaves together glimpses of their  thoughts and actions into a series of candid snapshots of a family’s life. There is a poetic quality to the writing and a skillful portrayal of the characters and the setting. Haddon has a creative, unique way of handling description resulting in very vivid yet ordinary and recognizable sets of images and scenes. Haddon once said in a speech that various people and events are like dots on a page, thrown together in random ways, but it’s not the author’s job to connect all those dots, that’s left to the reader.

Though I really enjoyed this book, I’m not sure that everyone would. There is no doubt that the writing is good, but it is very character driven and relationship oriented. If that is the sort of book which appeals to you, you will not be disappointed. However, in my mind it didn’t even come close to his first book ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timestarstarstarstarstarHaddon’s creativity as an author is very evident in  ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’, recently made into a stage production in London’s West End. When I read Curious Incident years ago, it was a book I wanted every person I knew to read. The story line is a mystery about a 15 year old autistic savant named Christopher who is obsessed with Sherlock Holmes. He embarks on an investigation which reveals so much more to the reader about him, than about the mystery he is solving, giving a unique insight into the mind of someone with autism. It is a tremendous and surprising novel about being different, and how the world could change if only people could look deeper and understand each other better. Both funny and tragic, Haddon displays rare insight in this novel, using a character who struggles with emotion, to create an experience full of emotion for the reader.

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