Monday, May 28, 2012

The Red House by Mark Haddon

The Red HouseThe Red House by Mark Haddon
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I admire Mark Haddon.
You have to admire someone who wrote a fantastic book, then a film for TV, then a book of poetry, then a novel. He hasn't followed a straight line, it seems like he has continually challenged himself and his art. With this new book he attempts to blur the line between poetry and novel.

While I do admire his attempts, I would also question the wisdom of never sticking to one thing long enough to perfect your work. Many writers' first book is not their best, and I would think by sticking to one genre you could learn things and develop.

This book is a disaster. I have read every book Haddon has written until now but unfortuantely I will be cautious before ever reading another word.

Told in eight alternating viewpoints, each character of the book sometimes has as little as one paragraph before we jump to the next character's paragraph, or we jump into a book someone is reading, or we jump into a poem someone read in 1958 or a TV show someone saw once, again only for a paragraph. I finished 25% of this book and I had no idea who anyone was. I doubt there is a writer alive that can balance eight destinct voices and random thoughts along the way and have the audience be able to continue to tell who the heck is talking.

The more important question is I think why. Why would you want to break up your story that much?

With the narrative flow gone and the reader's time spent guessing who's talking and who is who in relation to each other, or even if the person talking is a person, you really have no vested interest.

I got to 27% and I'm done.

View all my reviews

1 comment:

Espana said...

This is not an easy book. Haddon's poetry seems to hold up the prose which emerges from each character in the narrative. One must become accustomed to each character's dialogue and nuances. Concentration is essential to delve into the minds of his flawed family members.

There are two estranged siblings: Richard, the wealthy doctor and Angela who is beset by financial woes and emotional traumas. They meet up at the funeral of their mother, who was a chronic alcoholic. Richard, who realizes Angela and her brood are the only family he has left, decides to invite them to join his new wife and stepdaughter for holiday to the Red House. Set close to the Welsh border, Haddon's cast of characters is cut off from anything familiar.

Angela comes with her husband, Dominic, who has little stability or money to add to their family of Alex, Daisy and Benjy. Richard has Louisa, no triumph, and the mean stepdaughter, Melissa. Presented from the point of view of all these participants, the reader needs to ruminate to discern the odd voices and their perspectives.

The disconnection between Angela and Richard is grim. Haddon elevates the novel to one of literature but I can't say I really liked reading the book. He is a master at capturing angst and can mix it with humor. But like many things in life, you booked the vacation rental, you can't retrieve your deposit and ultimately find a way to make the stay compelling.