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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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6796014,070 (3.21)46
Member:nowright
Title:Red House
Authors:Mark Haddon
Info:Jonathan Cape (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 272 pages
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The Red House by Mark Haddon (2012)

  1. 10
    The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (Anonymous user)
  2. 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.
  3. 00
    This is Just Exactly Like You: A Novel by Drew Perry (JGoto)
    JGoto: About a dysfunctional family, but written with humor.
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Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  jayne_charles | Jun 28, 2014 |
Richard and Angela, estranged siblings who have just lost their mother, bring their tense nuclear families to a cottage in the Welch countryside for a week-long holiday. Typical family discord fare, but Haddon tackles the interpersonal and intra-personal landscape with a challenging narrative technique: each new paragraph is narrated from a different character's point of view. This requires concentration as the reader is getting to know the characters and I found it rather distracting for the first third of the novel. Once I felt like I had the cast of characters straight, I found the technique interesting; it creates a choppy and disconnected pace that mirrors the dysfunction of the characters' relationships. This novel is all about relationships and only one character emerges as anyone I'd want to get to know better (Alex has promise but he also has too much teenage boy about him for me to want to spend time in his company). If you tend to like novels with likable characters, this one may not be for you, but Haddon's wry humor and his merciless depiction of people trying to establish connection and feel like their lives matter won me over in the end. ( )
  EBT1002 | Dec 15, 2013 |
If one of Haddon's characters was to describe this book, it would be a 'Marmite' kind of book. On the surface, it's not all that promising - two estranged siblings and their assorted dysfunctional families spending a week holidaying together in a fairly remote cottage on the Welsh border.

If you approach it expecting a cosy, conventional tale of sibling rivalries being slowly resolved over mugs of cocoa while the children learn to get on by not having cell or wireless access, you'll put this down after a few pages scratching your head. Because it's not like that at all.

Each chapter relates the events of one day; each paragraph is told from the viewpoint (and often in the voice of) one of the eight characters. From the outset, this is unsettling and requires a great deal of concentration. Once Haddon is sure you are concentrating, however, he unravels a spectacular tale of real people dealing with real lives in all their discomfort and disarray


Woven through the story is the implied (and occasionally present) ninth voice, that of Angela's stillborn daughter. This device lifts some of the mundane to an altogether different level, as Angela slowly unravels in the way her mother clearly did.

Each of the characters reaches some kind of epiphany, but at the end - and true to life in general, and these characters in particular, nothing is really resolved. Daisy's journey may appear the most developed, but she is (and we are) still not really sure what's going on by the end. Has Alex made the break from his family to independence? Has Melissa learned her lesson? Has Louisa come to understand Richard? Has Richard? Had Dominic resolved his affair? Has Benjy learned about growing up (and, most intriguingly for me: is Benjy mildly autistic and undiagnosed, or is he just 'one of those kids'?)

Only time will tell; not time we get to spend with them in this story, but the week we spend with them all enriches everyone. Magnificent.
( )
  Watty | Nov 14, 2013 |
While I seem to be in the minority given previously posted reviews, I must admit that I really liked this book. It tells the story of an estranged brother and sister who, with their families, spend a week together on vacation in Wales.

So much happens in these characters' minds and hearts! We see a brother and sister who grew up together, but have such different recollections of their childhood and their parents. Young adults struggling with their sexuality. Spouses struggling with the state of their marriages. All while trying to relax and enjoy time together away from the pressures of work and home.

Mark Haddon shows real skill in the writing style he employed. Every chapter contains short sections from the point of view of every character. Sometimes in conversation; others times their thoughts. And thoughts wander, and maybe aren't related to what's going on at the moment. Mr. Haddon pulls this off without confusing the reader. The glimpses of the internal lives of the characters helped me to identify with them; like the say about icebergs, 90% is below the surface.

This book, like Curious Incident, had strong character voice(s) -- something I really like about Mr. Haddon's writing. ( )
  LynnB | Nov 8, 2013 |
Gave up on this book. ( )
1 vote | Carolinejyoung | Oct 22, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (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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