by David Mitchell
Reviewed by SA
Seeing as how October is a good month for spooky things, I think it’s a good time to tell you a little about Slade House, and what you’re getting yourself into in picking up David Mitchell’s latest novel. I fully recommend a comfy chair, and a dimly lit room, maybe with a flickering candle for effect, because this book will catch you, draw you in, and keep your heart racing until the end.
From “one of the most electric writers alive” (The Boston Globe) comes a taut, intricately woven, spine-chilling, reality-warping novel. Set across five decades, beginning in 1979 and coming to its astonishing conclusion on October 31, 2015, Slade House invites readers to experience yet again David Mitchell’s extraordinary imagination.
I’ll try to sum it up for you, without giving anything away: a house that really shouldn’t fit where it is; a strange invitation, where dreams seemingly come true; you’re starting to get suspicious that something is wrong, something isn’t quite normal… and by then, it’s too late.
This novel is incredibly short, something I did not expect coming from the author of “Cloud Atlas.” I had absolutely loved that novel, which is when I jumped when an ARC for Slade House became available. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was certainly amazed. Like Mitchell’s other novels, at least those that I’ve read, the plot spans decades, stretching across time, and is incredibly complex.
However, this novel repeats the same formula five times: five different people, one every 9 years, starting in 1979, and a trip to the Slade House, a house that doesn’t seem to exist any other time of the decade. Yet, even so, it doesn’t seem to feel repetitive: the author manages to make you relate to the character who you’re now following, even cheer for them, hope that they can get out. Slowly you begin to wonder what’s real and what’s not: is the character now narrating their experience reliable, or not? Who is on their side, and who is under some sort of spell?
A 13 year old, somewhat autistic kid; a recently divorced cop; an overweight university student with a huge crush on a guy in her paranormal club; a young woman from New York, searching for her sister; and a PhD psychiatrist, who is more than she seems. You follow them into the Slade house… will you follow them back out?
All this builds up at an incredible pace, that is somehow slow enough to create tension, but fast enough to make you feel almost breathless. How did I finish this book so quickly? Is it because I didn’t want to put it down? The slow reveal of “The truth” behind the events, the pieces slowly coming together over the centuries, is actually quite astonishing, and you realize just how brilliant of an author Mitchell is.
Just like Slade house, the reader only pops into existence every 9 years. We just have enough time to access the situation, to figure out who’s our first person narrator (I would like to point out the irony in being in this person’s mind, but I’m sure this will be funnier after you’ve finished reading the novel) and how they are connected to everything else, before their inevitable trip to the Slade house. It’s interesting to follow the evolution over time, how the place has changed, how the people have changed. Time itself seems to be a character in this novel.
Mitchell does seem to like his invented words, however. He sure has a right to. Some, however, felt a little weird, especially at first, in 1979. When they are used, it seems almost like a science fiction novel, rather than the fantasy fiction genre. It was slightly odd, but probably my only qualm about the novel.
If you’re looking for something spooky this halloween, pick up Slade House, on October 27th. it’s a fun, fast read. For fans of “The Bone Clocks”.