Life is more mystery than misery

(or at least, that's what I like to think)

The Red House, by Mark Haddon

I had been waiting for Haddon’s third fiction novel since Christmas, and I finally got it by mail two months ago: an ideal purchase to add to my summer Reading list. I had enjoyed both The curious incident of the Dog in the Night-time and A spot of bother and so I really was looking forward to read this one, which happened to be both what I expected and what I didn’t’ expect.

The Red House is a 264 page novel about family and all that family entails. The author narrates the story of four adults and four children from two different households but within the same family, who decide to spend their vacation by renting a house in Herefordshire, on the Welsh Border, for a week.  Haddon has divided the novel in seven chapters corresponding to the seven days of the vacation week, from Friday to Friday, in which we get to see every character’s arc. What surprised me at first was the author’s narrative experiment, if I might named it that way, in which he constantly alternates paragraphs from every characters point of view in the third person narrative. That makes it difficult to identify the characters at first, when you don’t know them, but it soon becomes pretty addictive with every page you turn.  This narrative technique gives us the inside of every one of the characters and also allows us to perceive a unique event or scene from the POV of each one of them, emphasizing the inevitable subjectivity of one’s perception as the scene and the action evolve. I won’t tell you the novel’s argument or the description of the characters because I think that discovering them is half the fun, so I won’t spoil it that way. But I will tell you that The Red House is a familiar trip full of irony, tenderness and bittersweet moments in which the Sartre premise “the others are hell” ends up saving the characters from dying by drowning in themselves, since the house becomes the purgatory in which each one of them overcomes their pain and personal issues, not in spite, but because of the others, so everyone can re-emerge as a phoenix from this interesting and unforgettable vacation. Don’ t miss it!


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