Slade House by David Mitchell
Sceptre (hardback), 2015
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Keep your eyes peeled for a small black iron door.
Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents — an odd brother and sister — extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late.
Spanning five decades, from the last days of the 1970s to the present, leaping genres, and barreling toward an astonishing conclusion, this intricately woven novel will pull you into a reality-warping new vision of the haunted house story—as only David Mitchell could imagine it.
Whatever Mum’s saying is drowned out by the grimy roar of the bus pulling away, revealing a pub called The Fox and Hounds. The sign shows three beagles cornering a fox. They’re about to pounce and rip it apart. A street sigh underneath says WESTWOOD ROAD. Lords and Ladies are supposed to be rich, so I was expecting swimming pools and Lamborghinis, but Westwood Road looks pretty normal to me. Normal brick houses, detached or semi-detached, with little front gardens and normal cars. The damp sky’s the colour of old hankies. Seven magpies fly by. Seven’s good. Mum’s face is inches away from mine, though I’m not sure if that’s an angry face or a worried one. ‘Nathan? Are you even listening? Mum’s wearing make-up today. That shade if lipstick’s called Morning Lilac but it smells more like Pritt Stick than lilacs. Mum’s face hasn’t gone away, so I say ‘What?’
I loved Slade House. Mitchell offers fans a brilliant, original take on the haunted house story. He uses the same structure as his previous novels. Slade House is split into four novellas where events and characters are connected in some way and turn up at different times throughout the novel. I love the way the author uses this complex structure in his novels without getting readers lost in all the movements. I found this short novel really unsettling at times. Mitchell does a brilliant job at creating atmosphere. I really enjoyed reading about the history of the house and why the twins lured people to it every nine years. I love the way the novel concluded and the surprising revelation that events are linked to The Bone Clocks.
Slade House is a brilliant, original haunted house story. I have a few more of the author’s novels left to read and I looked forward to seeing what crazy trips I’m taken on. I can’t wait to see what he publishes in 2016.