The Red House, by Mark Haddon

The Red House is the venue for a family holiday: Richard, who's recently remarried and gained a stepdaughter, invites his estranged sister Angela and her husband and three children for a week in Wales.

I thought that A Spot of Bother wasn't very like The Curious Incident... and this book isn't really like either of those - but it's easily as good as either of them.

The USP of this one is the style which is not exactly stream-of-consciousness but something moving in that direction. Similarly to Spot of Bother the story switches perspectives between the characters but it does so much more frequently, and focuses much more on what they're thinking (rather than just what they're doing). This makes it quite a hard book to read - or at least, you have to pay attention, because there's no warning of the changes. I'm not sure if listening on audiobook made this more or less difficult, but I did find myself having to skip back a bit a couple of times when I got confused about whose thoughts I was hearing.

The book was very impressive though: the characters were all distinct and believable. To start with I was a bit worried whether I'd be able to keep track of all of them, but they're all memorable in their own ways.

There were quite a few bits that were quotable, although I couldn't note them down because I was listening in the car, rather than reading the hard-copy. One description I did remember was of railway lines stretching into the distance, "unzipping" the countryside.

There was a section where Angela (I think?) was looking out of the window mulling the fact that while there are plenty of words describing different shades of red: scarlet, crimson, carnelian, pink, vermilion, carmine, etc., there are hardly any for grey. And I thought "oh yes, I'd never thought of that".

One of the things that I felt was that characters thought and did things in this book that felt a bit too real; some episodes felt too believable. A couple of things that if I'd thought of myself, I think I'd have hesitated to write in a book, in case it revealed too much about me. I don't know whether that says anything about Haddon, or more about me.

I think this has been the best book I've read so far this year. I would like to read Spot of Bother again now, and I'll buy my own copy of this book so I can re-read it.

Completed : 19-Aug-2012

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