08 December 2015

Books: Slade House By David Mitchell (2015)

David Mitchell is an interesting writer. Much like Stephen King has done over the years, Mitchell’s six previous novels appear to exist in the same universe with characters (and their offspring) intermixing in other novels. He also has a tendency to mix genres, something that was done in Cloud Atlas and others, which makes him hard to pin down as writer. And depending on your point of view, this is good or bad. Because of this, his books also tend to be densely filled tales which employ an unusual interlocking narrative structure along with linguistic smartness that may challenge a lot of readers brought up on a diet of popular fiction that employees the most basic sequence of events. 

His seventh novel, The Slade House, while filled with some of Mitchell’s typical panache, could be described as his most accessible novel to date.  

“Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents—an odd brother and sister—extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late.”

The book spans five decades (though is began long before), starting in the final months of the 1970s to 2015. Like other Mitchell books, it bounces between genres, but that’s not so much of a distraction to the reader, as you turn pages to discover what comes next. This is what enables a reader, not familiar with Mitchell’s style, to enjoy a ghost story, a haunted house tale, and mixed up lives of those caught up in the thrall of Norah and Jonah. 

I enjoyed the novel, and would’ve stayed up to finish it last night (it’s a quick read, at only 238 pages), but I was weary from work and trying to struggle through the latest Robert Galbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling) mystery which I need to return to the library while only a third of the way through it (I’ll just put it back on hold and wait, because I do like these books). As I read the novel and approached this review, I became aware that Slade House is really connected a lot to Mitchell’s last novel, The Bone Clocks. Of course, he constructs this book in such a way that you don’t have to read any of his previous novels, but now that I know more about the way he writes, and do enjoy a writer who rewards their Constant Readers with these little Easter Eggs, I’ll have to read that 2014 novel. 

Postscript: With the year rolling quickly to an end, I’ll need to figure out my own way to finish a book (or two) within the next 3 weeks. I’ve given up the idea of reading 52 books this year, but I’ve already broke (I think) my own personal best when it comes to completing novels/nonfiction in 2015 -that list will be released closer to the end of the month. Should I read The Bone Clocks knowing it might be a difficult time (much like Avenue of Mysteries and City On Fire turned out to be), or pick up one or two more novels that follow a typical narrative structure?

Stay tuned.  

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