Mark Haddon’s latest book the Red House is a stream of consciousness novel about two contemporary family of Brits spending a week of vacation together in a house in the English Countryside. At the center is Richard, a doctor and his sister Angela who have some unfinished business at the recent passing of their mother. Each brings to the house their respective spouses and children–three of the four being teens. Put them all together under one roof, each with their own secrets, have them interact and see what happens.
Haddon is most famous for his last book–the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a book written from the point of view of an autistic boy who solves a mystery. That book I loved–this one was a bit of a chore.
I started it last June but put it down for several months because it requires a more slow read. I had a hard time tracking the characters and who was speaking or thinking at any time. This is that dang stream of consciousness which I’ve never been a big fan of–apologies to Virginia Woolf fans. There are times when his prose is brilliant and poetic. He can take you from that contemporary setting back across years in one descriptive paragraph such as this one describing the house:
“The Red House, a Romano-British farmstead abandoned, ruined, plundered for stone, built over, burnt and rebuilt. Tenant farmers, underlings of Marcher lords, a pregnant daughter hidden in the hills, a man who put a musket in his mouth in front of his wife and sprayed half his head across the kitchen wall, a drunken priest who lost the house in a bet over a horse race, or so they said, though they are long gone. Two brass spoons under the floorboards. a 20,000-reichsmark banknote. Letters from Florence cross-written to save paper, now brown and frail and crumpled to pack a wall. Brother, my Lungs are not Goode….”
That paragraph made me pick up the book again and hang in there. There are more passages like that and they made the book worth reading when they surfaced.