Slade House by David Mitchell

A few years ago, I succumbed to the pressure of numerous recommendations and read David Mitchell's acclaimed novel Cloud Atlas. While I appreciated the unique construction and technically inventive writing of that novel, I found myself slightly unsatisfied by the end of it. The changing perspectives of different characters at vastly different time periods made reading the story quite a chore. When I finally made it to the end, I didn't feel any significant payoff to my efforts. Despite all of that, I still found myself reflecting upon the book, closely watching Mitchell's career, and waiting for the chance to read more of his work.

His latest novel Slade House immediately caught my attention. The first chapter was initially published as a serialized set of tweets. Mitchell then went on to expand that short story by adding four more chapters to complete the novel. At a little over 200 pages, Slade House is a work that is a bit more digestible than some of his heavier tomes, but equally thoughtful and enchanting.

Slade House is a mysterious dwelling that plays host to 120-year-old twins, Jonah and Norah Grayer. It is one of those places that exists somewhere in the outer edges of our minds. A Narnia like "reality bubble" of the imagination that is visible only to the select few who possess the psychic abilities to engage with it. Every nine years, Slade House appears to those (fortunate?) souls, enticing them to enter into the grand estate. Logically speaking, the residence and expansive garden surrounding it should not be able to exist in the narrow alley between the neighboring two homes. Still, those who push on the small iron door in Slade Alley are granted access to the extraordinary lair that defies space and time.

Each of the five chapters follows an individual as they explore Slade House. Beginning in 1979 and reconvening every nine years to the present day, the mystifying Grayer twins greet their guests with a specially tailored performance in the "Theatre of the Mind". They take the form of different characters each time, affably luring their visitors deeper into their shadowy "lacuna". By the time the true intentions of the Grayer's are revealed, it is too late. The guests become victims to their nefarious hosts and ensure that the cyclic nightmare will continue.

In Slade House, David Mitchell produces an astonishing story that defies genre and engages the innermost recesses of our imagination. Each chapter adheres to a similar form as the characters methodically approach their doom. This simple formal device creates an ever-mounting dread as readers become attuned to the ominous inevitability of the characters' fate. In the hands of a less capable author, the explanation of the Grayer's back story and "operandi" could easily have become convoluted and difficult to comprehend. Fortunately, Mitchell's effortless linguistic manipulation conjures a coherent description of this intricate mythology. Slade House comfortably succeeds as an intelligent and terrifying page-turner that brilliantly showcases the proficiency of its visionary creator.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and GoodReads.

(2015, 32)

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 25, 2015 and is filed under ,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

2 Responses to “Slade House by David Mitchell”

  1. It's a shame you couldn't like Cloud Atlas as much as you wanted to. But you did give the author another chance which is more than quite a few readers would do, so good on your for that! And it sounds like it paid off from the way of things. So glad you enjoyed this book! It's interesting to know it all stemmed from serialised tweets after all xD

    1. Thanks Olivia! I included a link to those tweets in the review. I encourage anyone even slightly curious about this novel to go and read it. It is a great way to get a taste of what Mitchell has to offer.


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