The Red House

Mark Haddon

The Red House

After his mother's death, Richard, a newly remarried hospital consultant, decides to build bridges with his estranged sister, inviting Angela and her family for a week in a rented house on the Welsh border. Four adults and four children, a single family and all of them strangers. Seven days of shared meals, log fires, card games and wet walks. But in the quiet and stillness of the valley, ghosts begin to rise up. The parents Richard thought he had. The parents Angela thought she had. Past and present lovers. Friends, enemies, victims, saviours. And watching over all of them from high on the dark hill, Karen, Angela's stillborn daughter. 3.5 out of 5 based on 12 reviews
The Red House

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 272
RRP
Date of Publication May 2012
ISBN 978-0224096409
Publisher Jonathan Cape
 

After his mother's death, Richard, a newly remarried hospital consultant, decides to build bridges with his estranged sister, inviting Angela and her family for a week in a rented house on the Welsh border. Four adults and four children, a single family and all of them strangers. Seven days of shared meals, log fires, card games and wet walks. But in the quiet and stillness of the valley, ghosts begin to rise up. The parents Richard thought he had. The parents Angela thought she had. Past and present lovers. Friends, enemies, victims, saviours. And watching over all of them from high on the dark hill, Karen, Angela's stillborn daughter.

Reviews

The Independent

Susan Jeffries

Haddon writes superb books for children, teenagers and grown-ups, and gets every voice in this one dead right. He is also a master craftsman, so this complicated narrative moves with the speed and certainty of released, unhappy holidaymakers hitting the homeward road. So shove this in your holidaying bag.

28/05/2012

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The Daily Mail

Michael Arditti

This is a very literary novel which cites authors from Homer and Shakespeare to McEwan and McNab; the family even haunts the second-hand bookshops in nearby Hay-on-Wye. It’s unlikely, however, that future visitors will find The Red House on the shelves since, with writing as elegant and truthful as this, readers will wish to keep their copies close at hand to savour again.

03/05/2012

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The Observer

Kate Kellaway

Haddon has a restless sense of the absurd and a genius for shorthand, for packing paragraphs full (take the ground-gobbling opening paragraph about the train journey to Wales). He catches the entire texture of the holiday complete with extracts from books read and words from music listened to – he is a great man for lists. The writing is, at every turn, a tremendous pleasure. And while the novel cannot compete with Haddon's one-off bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, it is still a treat to be part of this Welsh escapade.

06/05/2012

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The Evening Standard

David Sexton

Haddon, writing in the third person, takes us into one consciousness then another — and then he adds voices that are less precisely located, made up of snippets from songs, glancing references to books, films and television, random facets of the present, fragments of learning and lore, the ready-made forms of speech we all revert to, other places, other people, other times... There are also passages of authorial distancing that are highly wrought prose poetry, sinking far back into the past or into the landscape itself, the spirit of the place: choric. The effect is oddly like a rude, demotic, masculine revision of Virginia Woolf.

03/05/2012

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The Daily Express

Christopher Bray

At one point Haddon quotes from The Waste Land and The Red House has something of TS Eliot’s poem’s wilful meandering and maundering. “The newel post, her fairytale father, ‘My Funny Valentine’,” runs a typical sentence. It borders on creative writing-style self-indulgence but as Richard and Angela would know there are passages here to die for too.

04/05/2012

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The Spectator

Sophia Waugh

Despite the bittiness, and the leaping between tenses for no discernible reason, both of which are distracting, Haddon does succeed with this novel, and the reason is twofold. First and foremost, he writes like a dream. Never showy, but often lyrically descriptive, he takes the reader with him to the core of this crazy family. Secondly, he has a true understanding of the human heart.

05/05/2012

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The Guardian

Carol Birch

The Red House is a closely observed domestic drama that gives the impression of being a random slice-of-life, but in which every character is coming to terms with something or experiencing a revelation. The action is subtle and often interior, and what really counts is not what happens so much as the sharp observations of how people behave and feel, and the gap between the two.

09/05/2012

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The Independent on Sunday

Amanda Craig

Rather like with Alan Ayckbourn's plays, what makes The Red House engaging is the quality of the writing. From the first page in which the train carrying Dominic and Angela's family "unzips the fields", there is a vigour to Haddon's prose which carries you along, even if the style (historic present, dialogue rendered in italics, shifting viewpoints) is not at first inviting ... Haddon's choice of subject might otherwise seem an oddly conventional one, and he does not give us the profound insights into human nature that this kind of novel needs to make it great; but his interest in the way individuals try to connect unifies it with his two previous novels.

13/05/2012

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The Times

Angus Clarke

There is a genuinely sinister episode when the ghost of a stillborn child appears and begins almost to interact with the sleeping living, but then it just goes away. At another point, Angela sinks into some kind of fugal state and the families gather round to worry, then it too just seems to trickle away. We have all the ingredients for something fierce, unpredictable and bloodstained — but instead of Norse saga, it all goes just a tiny bit Aga saga. Considering how little happens, The Red House is thoroughly engrossing and enjoyable entertainment, but I found it a bit too clever for my own good.

05/05/2012

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The Literary Review

David Annand

This innovative structure is certainly one of the most interesting things about the book but it is to some extent its undoing, too, as it is one of many similarities to Ali Smith’s The Accidental. Both books feature a middle-class family on holiday in rural Britain, an adulterous father, the unsettling influence of a strange female presence and a teenager possibly responsible for a classmate’s suicide attempt. This makes it hard not to compare them, which is harsh on Haddon, as Smith’s book is one of the most vital, ambitious English novels of recent years. That Haddon’s book isn’t doesn’t make it bad of course ... But the attempts at integrating other texts don’t always work, some of the ghosts feel misplaced, and the whole thing can be a little dreary.

01/05/2012

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The Financial Times

Lionel Shriver

Haddon is a gifted writer and lifts the tone above soap opera. Nevertheless, there is a soporific mildness to this book – to the characters, the plot, and even the writing. I didn’t mind it – the experience of reading the novel was pleasant enough – but in short order I’m certain to forget all about it

05/05/2012

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The Scotsman

Hannah McGill

Rule-breaking in the name of formal experimentation is an excellent thing, but Haddon isn’t really writing experimental fiction here. I don’t mean that in a snobbish way at all: just that he appears to want to make quite clear, inclusive and relatable points about his characters and their emotions, not to deconstruct human thought processes and question the functions of narrative and challenge the nature of reality and stuff like that. So the quirky punctuation and the characters’ tangled-up identities work against him somewhat.

29/04/2012

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