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Red House by Mark Haddon
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Red House (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Mark Haddon

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7486112,439 (3.22)52
Member:nowright
Title:Red House
Authors:Mark Haddon
Info:Jonathan Cape (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Red House by Mark Haddon (2012)

  1. 10
    The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (Anonymous user)
  2. 00
    Deutschland by Martin Wagner (baystateRA)
    baystateRA: Both books have a tangle of reticent English family members misunderstanding each other while on holiday
  3. 00
    All Families are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland (SimoneA)
    SimoneA: Both books tell the story of a family with issues, from their different viewpoints. 'All Families' does it with lots of black humor, 'The Red House' with an interesting approach to the viewpoints.
  4. 00
    This is Just Exactly Like You by Drew Perry (JGoto)
    JGoto: About a dysfunctional family, but written with humor.
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English (62)  Dutch (1)  All languages (63)
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
After the death of their mother, Richard and Angela bring there respective families together for a holiday. Living in the same house together after a history of estrangement dredges up a number of issues. Each of the members of the family has a secret. Each one is a fully developed, complex and interesting person. This book is sad and strange but captivating. The characters and events are haunting. Beautifully done! ( )
  Juva | Apr 6, 2015 |
Sad when a writer seems to peak with his first novel. ( )
  thiscatsabroad | Jan 9, 2015 |
Although I was a little at a loss to start with, with all the names and moods switching back and forth, I soon got fully into it and surfed the stormy family waters. It is an interesting idea, to show everyone's thoughts as directly as possible, and so very much different from everybody else's. I very much injoyed the idea and the way it was presented - an accomplished, and therefore enjoyable work. ( )
  flydodofly | Nov 8, 2014 |
A week in a holiday cottage away from the city; what could be more idyllic? Escape to the country, forget your woes, chill out, enjoy yourself.

Except it doesn’t always work out that way, does it? Because when you go you inevitably — if unconsciously — pack up your troubles in your luggage. And then you spend the week trying to ignore them, only to have them appear whenever you least expect it, or to be picked over by others you hoped would never see them. Hell is other people, Sartre declared. But true hell is people with destructive secrets. Hell is you.

Siblings Angela and Richard have been estranged for some time. A father they barely knew, a recently deceased mother who had dementia, then an opportunity for them and their respective families to come together on neutral ground, to become re-acquainted, to rebuild bridges. A liminal world: a holiday just before the 2010 UK general election and a change of government; a cottage on the borders of Wales and England; the world turning, ghosts emerging to haunt the living; a solitary fox appearing, and the Venerable Bede’s sparrow recalled:

“It seems to me that the life of man on earth is like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your captains and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall. Outside, the storms of winter rain and snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one window of the hall and out through another. While he is inside, the bird is safe from the winter storms, but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. So man appears on earth for a little while – but of what went before this life, or what follows, we know nothing.”

So it is with the two families, insensible of secrets, ignorant of what the future may bring. A fateful stillbirth, a secret and doomed affair, fear of dementia, a failed employment, concern over a professional misconduct case, sibling resentment, relationships cooling. And that’s just the adults. Throw in troubled teenagers with their own preoccupations and concerns over sexual orientation, add in an anxious introspective child, and the powder keg is well and truly primed.

Mark Haddon’s novel is a cracking read, and I defy any reader not to recognise at least some of the situations described as touching on their own experiences, and not to empathise with successive individuals. Short little scenes present an encounter from one point of view, then we view another encounter from someone else’s train of thought. Haddon manages to vividly capture the internal as well as spoken voices of each of the eight fellow travellers — Angela, Dominic, Alex, Daisy, Benjy, Richard, Louisa and Melissa — and make them live as individuals.

The choice of holiday reading illuminates where characters may be coming from: Stoker’s Dracula, Andy McNab’s Main Force, The Art of Daily Prayer. Threading though the text are echoes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream where the worlds of fairies, rude mechanicals and the court interact but never conjoin. Ships that pass on the night, sharing the same waters but steaming away from each other. Are matters truly resolved? Are they hell.

http://wp.me/s2oNj1-liminal ( )
1 vote ed.pendragon | Sep 23, 2014 |
A surprising and very skilfully written book, this underlines the author’s talent for writing novels that are entertaining, a bit quirky and ever so slightly unsettling. The back cover synopsis tells it like it is: a not-particularly-close brother and sister and their respective families spend a week together in a holiday home. You know more or less what to expect – a bit of discord, probably a fair bit of bitchiness, skeletons in closets etc, and yet what could have been a straightforwardly soapy beach-read turned out to have a harder edge than I expected.

It makes use of short sections and frequent changes of viewpoint to ensure its cast of eight each get their share of the spotlight, as well as fitting in plenty of random interludes, some of which verge on the surreal. I read it slowly – not because it was a tedious or heavy read, but because every so often a throwaway comment or astute observation would spark off some thought or recollection in my own mind like sunlight reflecting off a diamond, and off I would go into some daydream.

I liked the way issues in the characters’ home lives were sketched briefly or just hinted at, not described in forensic detail – the reader is well able to fill in the gaps. The only thing I didn’t like was the way dialogue was rendered in italics, minus speech marks. It felt as though the characters were thinking rather than speaking, and it took me a good two-thirds of the book to feel comfortable with it. On the other hand I did appreciate the believability of the whole thing – it wasn’t the sort of book where people suddenly see the error of their ways and everyone lives happily ever after. It does rather accept that someone who is an ‘utter shit’ to quote the book, at the beginning of the week, will probably still be one by the end. ( )
1 vote jayne_charles | Jun 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Haddon’s tone is flawless, so compassionate and detailed and precise that this novel beguiles without cloying, illuminates without demystifying. All happy families may be alike, but oh, how wonderful to witness the myriad unhappiness of the others, conjured by a virtuoso wordsmith.
 
If you want truly great literature set in an English country house, you still can’t beat Wodehouse’s Blandings books for deep-core contentment and unbridled comic zip. “The Red House,” on the other hand, reads as if it were written to silence those critics who damn Haddon with the faint praise of being too “readable.” Mission accomplished.
 
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To Clare, with thanks to Mary Gawne-Cain
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385535775, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:52 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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, which results in a symphony of long-held grudges, fading dreams, and rising hopes.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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