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.
About Mark Haddon
MARK HADDON is the author of the international bestseller, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction and the Whitbread Book of the Year award; and the New York Times bestseller A Spot of Bother. In addition to The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, a collection of poetry, Haddon has also written and illustrated numerous award-winning children’s books and television screenplays.
Haddon became a literary sensation with his debut (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, 2003), a critical and commercial success which relied for effect on a tricky narrative perspective—a protagonist who was not only unreliable, but autistic. He then succumbed to a severe case of sophomore jinx with A Spot of Bother (2006), a novel that suggested that the debut was the only gimmick that Haddon had in him. What surprises about his third novel is that it’s not only his best, it’s his most conventional, at least in terms of the plot. Following the death of their mother, a brother and sister, who hadn’t maintained much contact and had felt some estrangement, bring their families together for a weeks’ vacation. With a spirit that evokes A Midsummer Night’s Dream (to which one of the characters compares this idyll), the setup ensures that there will be revelations, twists and shifts in the family dynamic. Angela has three children whom she loves (all detailed richly and empathically), a husband she tolerates, and the memory of a stillborn daughter whom she still mourns (18 years later). Richard, a wealthier doctor who has arranged this family reunion with his sister, has a younger second wife, a career crisis, and a stepdaughter who is as mean-spirited as she is attractive. Where similar novels often devote whole chapters to the perspective of a character, this one shifts perspective with every paragraph, sustaining suspense (sometimes as to whose mind the paragraph reflects) while enriching the developing relationships among people who barely know each other, in a place where “the normal rules had been temporarily suspended.” There will be flirting across generations and gender, sexual orientations discovered and revealed, and deep secrets unearthed. “What strangers we are to ourselves,” muses one character, “changed in the twinkling of an eye.” Yet the plot feels organic rather than contrived, the characters convincing throughout, the tone compassionate and the writing wise. – Kirkus Reviews
No One In ‘The Red House’ Gets Away Unscathed
NPR Book Review – June 10, 2012 (Excerpt)
Ah, the family getaway. All of you together in one space — maybe a cabin in the mountains or a beach house. Delightful family meals, maybe some Scrabble. A time of togetherness and familial harmony.
That is decidedly not the kind of family vacation writer Mark Haddon draws inspiration from. In his latest novel, The Red House, Haddon peers inside the messy dynamics of a group of relatives, each grappling with their own fears and trying to make sense of themselves as a family, all while stuck in a vacation house in the remote English countryside.
“I think a holiday home is a milder version of the burning building scenario,” Haddon tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “All our frameworks are taken away … we’re in our own company for an extended period of time. So there’s the pressure of the house and there’s the absence of work, and I think in those situations, we tend to find out more, and sometimes a little bit too much about ourselves and those who are close to us.”
The Red House braids together themes of sexual identity, parental insecurity and sibling rivalry, and no one gets away unscathed. “Everyone changes, everyone comes away different to a greater or lesser extent at the end of the book,” Haddon says, and not everyone gets a neat resolution. [Read the full article...]
‘Red House’: A Kaleidoscope Of Family Dysfunction
NPR Book Review – June 13, 2012 (Excerpt)
You can get to know people awfully well by spending a week with them on vacation. In The Red House, Mark Haddon brings together two long-estranged siblings and their disjointed families for a shared holiday at a rented house on the Welsh border six weeks after their mother’s funeral. Seven days comes to feel like an eternity — for his characters and his readers.
Haddon takes a kaleidoscopic approach to this tale of family dysfunction. He twists his scope repeatedly to bring his eight characters — four adults, three teenagers and an 8-year-old boy named Benjy who is spooked by intimations of mortality — into sharper focus in multiple combinations. Each of them is in some sort of distress — physical, emotional or social — which erupts during their enforced proximity.
Richard, a successful, self-satisfied radiologist, is paying for the vacation, which was his idea, because he feels bad about his sister’s unhappiness and their disaffection. Despite his profession, Richard isn’t much interested in what’s going on beneath the surface of others’ lives. He has no children of his own and little understanding of his mean-spirited 16-year-old stepdaughter, a born Alpha girl. [Read the full article...]
Under One Roof - ‘The Red House,’ a Novel by Mark Haddon
The New York Times Book Review – July 6, 2012 (Excerpt)
“How rarely people were together,” a character thinks toward the end of Mark Haddon’s new novel. That may be true unless you happen to be a character in a Mark Haddon novel, of course, in which case togetherness is next to godliness. His plots are group hugs administered to the constitutionally solitary, starting with Christopher Boone, the autistic 15-year-old narrator of his high-concept crowd-pleaser “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” published in 2003, a sweet-natured Rubik’s Cube of a book in which amateur sleuthing around a poodle’s death leads to the missing piece in a family jigsaw.
Haddon sought to hit the same sweet spot again in 2006 with “Spot of Bother,” which exposes a seething suburban hotbed of lusts and betrayals swirling around a mild-mannered protagonist: a Mr. Magoo-like retiree who considers it the height of daring to have intercourse without brushing his teeth. Solipsists, odd bods, nerds young and old — Haddon delights in winkling these social misfits out of their natural habitats and thrusting them into very English comedies of discombobulation and befuddlement. Imagine Alan Bennett as rendered by Pixar and you’re halfway there.
The same centripetal forces are at work in his broadest, most ambitious novel to date, “The Red House,” in which two halves of a sundered English family attempt to unite for a weeklong holiday. Angela hasn’t spoken to her brother, Richard, in years, but after they briefly cross paths at their mother’s funeral, Richard invites Angela and her clan (her husband, Dominic, and their kids: 17-year-old Alex, 16-year-old Daisy and 8-year-old Benjy) to stay with his family (his second wife, Louisa, and his stepdaughter, the 16-year-old Melissa) in a rented home near Hay-on-Wye. The stage is set for the kind of tragicomedy that has rattled teacups from Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” through to Ian McEwan’s “Atonement.” “Once you gather a group of people together in a country house then certain things try to force themselves in,” the British writer Toby Litt once said. “Like ghosts. Like midnight flits. Like marital breakdown. Like meditations on the state of England. All of those things have to come through.” [Read the full article...]
QUEEN OF MISFORTUNE A Lady Jane Grey Novel by Peter Carroll
A Love Story of Shakespearean Dimension!
Queen Of Misfortune is the fictional story of Lady Jane Grey as told by her beloved tutor, John Aylmer. At the time of her execution a stranger is recorded to have assisted her when, blind folded, she lost her way upon the scaffold. Was it the same strange who was also recorded to have visited her when she was imprisoned in the Tower? Little is known of this unfortunate girl who was beheaded for treason in the 16th Century. She was only 16. She is omitted from the list of monarchs but was actually queen for nine days. Author Peter Carroll, in his novel, follows John Aylmer’s close relationship with Jane as her tutor and later, as she grows up, her lover. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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