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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Those people in our lives that we didn't choose
A week in a holiday cottage shared by eight relations, seen from their varying perspectives. The trials of being with one's family: those people in our lives that we didn't choose! The damage that's been done, and the anger and resentment. And the selective and unreliable nature of memory: how two people can look back and remember the same event quite differently. These...
Published 16 months ago by Phil

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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Two more dysfunctional families
I loved the first book, but to say I was disappointed with this is an understatement. It's not so much the plot, an inconsequential tale of an estranged brother and sister and their respective families (dysfunctional, naturally) going to Herefordshire for a week in a cottage. A few skeletons emerge from cupboards, but no one seems to really change much. It's not so much...
Published 22 months ago by Archy


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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Two more dysfunctional families, 8 Nov 2012
By 
Archy (ALTRINCHAM, Cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Red House (Hardcover)
I loved the first book, but to say I was disappointed with this is an understatement. It's not so much the plot, an inconsequential tale of an estranged brother and sister and their respective families (dysfunctional, naturally) going to Herefordshire for a week in a cottage. A few skeletons emerge from cupboards, but no one seems to really change much. It's not so much the characters, though it's hard to remember who's who a lot of the time, so sketchily are they drawn. It's not so much the wealth of irrelevant and unnecessary realistic detail - is Exile on Main Street the best double album ever, or is it Physical Graffiti etc (try The White Album, Mark.) It's more all of this together, combined with an artsy, convoluted writing style that made me want to give up plenty of times. But I ploughed on, hoping the admittedly slight plot would make up for the pretentiousness of the style. It didn't.

It remeinded me a little of Alice Thomas Ellis, with more up-to-date characters. And boy is it up to date. It practically thrusts its modernity down your throat. You know, short paragraphs that skip from character to character; an ever changing tense, sometimes past, sometimes present. Ruminations and stream-of consciousness (not that that's modern) and that wealth of realistic detail that seems there more to pad the whole thing out. No speech marks, naturally. Those useful little squiggles seem to have little place in a modern book intended to be artistic. Instead we have italics. Whatever next? How about all nouns in bold? Really, I get so tired of writers messing with the form instead of letting the story, the characters, the description do the job. It's not as though Mark Haddon can't write - I just don't understand why he had to wrap up this rather humdrum tale in such artiness. I don't often give a book only one star, but this really brassed me off.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Those people in our lives that we didn't choose, 8 May 2013
By 
Phil (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Red House (Paperback)
A week in a holiday cottage shared by eight relations, seen from their varying perspectives. The trials of being with one's family: those people in our lives that we didn't choose! The damage that's been done, and the anger and resentment. And the selective and unreliable nature of memory: how two people can look back and remember the same event quite differently. These are some of the themes of Mark Haddon's remarkable third novel, which confirms his status as an exceptionally talented author who always produces the goods - some achievement, after the runaway success of the debut that had readers wondering if he could ever write anything as good again. Well, he could, and he has (twice).

As always, Haddon gets inside each of his characters and opens them up like an anatomist, dissecting their behaviour and motives, and recording their pains and triumphs. As it says on the jacket, he has "a true understanding of the human heart". (So true, in fact, that it might be unsettling, having him as one of your relatives! That acuity of perception; you could get away with nothing.) His observations on children in particular are wonderfully good, and the four in this novel will tug at your heartstrings: the unhappy girl who doesn't know how to be kind; the late-adolescent boy obsessed with sex, rivalry and the need to impress; his sister's struggle to come to terms with something that has turned her to religion for comfort; and the little boy who is still very much a child, but has to deal with the complicated manoeuvres of those older than him, when all he wants to do is have fun.

The story is told in small chunks, switching quickly from one perspective to another: a structure likely to annoy me, but it didn't. I just loved the concentrated bursts of energetic writing; it struck me that most other authors would have taken twice as many pages to tell me half as much. And yet he takes the time to offer the most lyrical passages of description, and his writing in this respect is quite breathtaking. Yes, it was often a challenge, determining who was the subject of a particular chunk of text, and many of the cultural references went over my head, but when storytelling is as good as this, I can bear it.

As complex as human relationships themselves, this book is both light and heavy, funny and serious, mundane and gripping. My goodness, the extraordinary richness of it: vivid and visual prose, like beautiful poetry, but a hundred times more satisfying. A highly unusual novel, and utterly brilliant.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deceptively devastating, 8 Jun 2012
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This review is from: The Red House (Kindle Edition)
At first i thought I was in for a humdrum tale of domestic angst amongst the Boden-wearing classes, but I soon realised there was a whole lot more to this story. I found it gripping, by the end - and the best yet of Haddon's books. It is very cleverly done - the author handles the constantly switching narrative point of view very skilfully, and his dissection of the emotions and foibles of each character is superb. None of the characters is immediately likeable but all the same I found myself feeling sympathy and empathy. There were tears! A great read, all in all. Just don't read it when you are on holiday with your extended family in a remote cottage.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Giving up too, 3 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Red House (Paperback)
I have to agree with many of the other reviewers. Having enjoyed Curious Incident, I was looking forward to this but life is too short to endure something so difficult to read! I hate the way he brings in the characters. It's supposed to be clever but it is just pretentious. It's also depressing in a sort of attempt at a 'modern' portrayal of a 'modern' dysfunctional family - families. Doesn't ring true.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating, 7 July 2012
By 
Benjamin (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Red House (Hardcover)
Brother and Sister Richard and Angela have had little contact since the death of their mother some years ago. In the mean time Richard has remarried and in the process gained a teenage 'daughter'. A self assured hospital consultant, he decides to try to reconnect with his sister and her family.

Angela teaches, while her husband Dominic, once a successful composer of ad tunes is now working in a book store; they have two teenage children, Alex and Daisy, and eight year old Benjy. Angela and Dominic's marriage is shaky, Alex is loosing respect or his father and Daisy has joined a church and has cut herself off from her old friends.

When Richard invites Angela and her family to join them for a week in a rented cottage on the Welsh border it is with mixed feelings that they accept. The Red House is an account of their holiday. Taken day by day it is a series of episodes from their interactions, peppered with their private thoughts and worries, along with occasional snippets from their chosen various reading matter.

The account flits from person to person with rapid frequency, and is occasionally interspersed with descriptive paragraphs of their isolated location often with little regard for proper sentence structure - this is not a criticism, just an observation, but I hope it conveys something of the slightly unusual construction of this novel.

Over the course of the week we observe the individual characters, and far from all come out of the experience with shinning colours. The otherwise self confident Richard has his eyes opened as to how he treats others, and his previously adoring new wife sees him in a new light. Their self-centred daughter may or may not be a better person after the events of the week. Angela may be able finally to put an old ghost to rest; Daisy might at last have seen the light regarding her adopted religion while she discovers something about herself that shocks her (even if everyone else seems OK with it). Dominic resolves to try to make amends for past mistakes as he decides to work to strengthen his family, but it might be too late as regards his son Alex, who of all is the one who despite the occasional misjudgement is the one who really proves himself over the holiday, the holiday he entered as a boy and comes out almost a man. Benjy's charming innocence and very boyish interests provide much entertainment, and the obvious love his two older siblings have for him is delightful.

Once one is used to the staccato and sometimes confusing approach, this quickly becomes a captivating read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A good read - not really, 18 Aug 2014
This review is from: The Red House (Paperback)
I have loved Mark Haddon's other two books for adults - each quite different. I was very much put off this one, however, by the negative reviews of this one so held back from buying it until I saw it in a charity shop. I started by quite enjoying it - a slightly unusual style with spoken words in italics rather than in speech marks and a rather jerky style of moving between unrelated or only slightly related paragraphs. But then the long, apparently disjointed paragraphs started. I read for enjoyment and I am quite sure a more academic reader than I could work through these 'odd' paragraphs and find deeper meaning. But this book is not great literature or even particularly meaningful literature. It's a novel - to entertain. There are no great messages contained in it other than families tend to be messy. And so I came to the point of rather resenting the writer's expectations that I would spend time and energy struggling to understand what he meant. When actually what I wanted was to put my feet up and enjoy the book. That might make me a Philistine but I don't care. The story of two grown up siblings from a dysfunctional family background perpetrating their own dysfunction upon their families has been done elsewhere and better. And by the two thirds mark, I just didn't much care about any of them in their very middle class holiday cottage having endless middle class angst - affairs, mental health issues, still born babies, broken marriages and identity crises. Just very depressing really. I kept going - as you do, but it really wasn't worth it. I think Mr Haddon has been a wee bit too clever for his own good. Not a rollicking good read I am afraid.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Red House, 28 May 2014
By 
K. L. Beeden (uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Red House (Kindle Edition)
When The Red House was selected as the May read for my book group I wasn't sure it'd be my cup of tea. The cover was gloomy and foreboding for starters, and my headspace hasn't been all that fantastic in recent months. I didn't think I was up to coping with a depressing read (a Google search suggests that other editions of the book have a lighter cover- I wonder if owning one of those instead might have changed my perception of the book and therefore what I expected from it?).

However, The Red House isn't actually a depressing read. Set around the Wales/England border (my old stomping ground!) it follows one week of a holiday. It is an intense snapshot into family life where characters young and old wrestle with the challenges of living- bereavement, marriage, sexuality, faith...Haddon certainly doesn't shy away from issues which other authors might be afraid to tackle for fear of offending. But this is one of his greatest skills as a writer, his ability to explore and probe without preaching.

There was no main character, and personally I didn't like that. I wanted to be able to get my teeth into them (not literally, I'm not a cannibal) and felt that wasn't possible. Daisy in particular, a teenager discovering Christianity alongside her burgeoning attraction to another female, interested me. In some ways I felt short changed as she would have made a brilliant lead character-I want a follow up with just her story to see what happens to her next!

In some ways not much happens in The Red House. There is no concrete ending, no happily ever after-this is not a spoiler, any book which follows just one week will naturally end before the story does. Being honest, I can't say I enjoyed it. It is well written and experimental without being out and out irritating (thinking of other experimental writers here who have used techniques that as a reader I found unbearable- Ali Smith's 'start in the middle of a sentence' in The Accidental for one), and I cared enough about a few of the characters to want to read on. I also found it interesting to see how the relationships between the characters developed over the course of the week, and how some days were eventful; others more mundane.

This book walks the fine line between despair and hope. And the hope was what kept me reading. We can all benefit from a bit more of that in our lives.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid..., 3 Sep 2013
By 
Mr David W Eldridge (Leyburn, N.Yorks United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Red House (Paperback)
In common with so many others I've really enjoyed reading other Mark Haddon books. Finding myself in Waterstones I actually paid full price, it's nice to still have the odd bookshop to browse through. Waiting to see a doctor in hospital I eagerly started to read The Red House, by page 25 I just gave up. The style was so unengaging, I had no sympathy for the characters at all. Feeling guilty that I'd actually given up on a book, I have scanned the reviews on Amazon and see I am not alone. If you're looking for a story that will grip you and make you feel rewarded, avoid The Red House.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A dreadfully written book by a previously accomplished author, 18 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Red House (Paperback)
I read this despite its many bad reviews but ended up feeling like all the other disappointed readers. Not only is it not a patch on "Curious Indcident..." it's a terribly written volume in such a messed up, contrived, jumbled, garbage way that I found myself flipping thru as fast as possible simply to find out what would happen.

The shame is that the plot - had it been well written - is a reasonably good one. For that reason I'm awarding it 2 rather than only 1 star. Its other redeeming feature was the child, Benjy, was rather likeable and well written.

Had this book been written by Joe Public it would have sold about 2 copies. Its only merit seems to lie in the fact that it's written by a previously excellent author who has clearly lost his way entirely. His agent / publisher really do need to set him back on the right track.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, 28 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Red House (Paperback)
I loved the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. I have three boys with Aspergers so could really relate to it. However The Red House is very different. Good idea but I just didn't like the way it was written. Sometimes you had to get half way through a page before you could work out which one of the characters he was talking about, I assume this was deliberate but I just found it extremely annoying.
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The Red House
The Red House by Mark Haddon (Paperback - 25 April 2013)
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