Hello, people of the internet!
Here is a book I couldn’t help but read in one day. I didn’t rush it or force myself to finish it within a day. I just found myself in a good book. Of course, once I finish reading a book and start to think about it, I begin to think about it more logically. I don’t know if anyone does this as well, but I find it difficult to not stop thinking about a book once I’ve read it. And sometimes, when I think I’ve thought it about too much and try to stop, the book somehow finds it’s way back into my brain.
And this is the book in question.
Title: Slade House
Author: David Mitchell
Publication date: 28th June 2016
On one side of a high wall lies a narrow, dank alley on the other, a sunlit garden; and between them, a small black iron door.
You just need to open it.
Welcome to Slade House.
Inside the book
Turn down Slade Alley – narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you’re looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but as your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn’t quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies.
A stranger greets you and invites you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t.
This unnerving, taut and intricately woven tale by one of our most original and bewitching writers begins in 1979 and comes to its turbulent conclusion around Hallowe’en, 2015. Because every nine years, on the last Saturday of October, a ‘guest’ is summoned to Slade House. But why has that person been chosen, by whom and for what purpose? The answer lie waiting in the long attic, at the top of the stairs…
This is the first book written by David Mitchell I’ve read. Yes – I haven’t read Cloud Atlas, a book I’ve heard so many positive things about. I have wanted to read his books before, but didn’t know where to start. I decided to buy a smaller book to see if his writing was something I liked and found good, hence why I picked Slade House.
I should mention this before anything else: oh my God, I love that cover! Just look at it!
LOOK AT IT!
It has so many tiny details in it; I’ve spent a good few minutes looking at it. No doubt this is one of my favourite covers now. The images before each story match the tone of the book and are significant to the events and characters as well.
From what I’ve read, Slade House is connected to all of David Mitchell’s other work, mostly to The Bone Clocks, which I haven’t read, but I still enjoyed and understood this book regardless.
Also, here I place a spoiler alert as I’m going to talk about the stories in great detail, but it’s something I want to discuss in this review.
Slade House is made up of five stories, starting from 1979 to 2015. Each story has its own characters with their own conflicts and backstories, but are still connected to one another in more ways than one. The story set in 1979 is told through the perspective of Nathan, who has autistic tendencies; the 1988 story through Detective Inspector Gordon Edmonds; the 1997 story through Sally Timms; the 2006 story through Freya Timms, Sally’s sister; and the 2015 story told through Norah. In fact, how David Mitchell wrote them is genius. The only way I can describe it is the ‘domino chain reaction’, where a domino can knock over a domino that is 1.5 times larger than itself, so if you have a chain of dominos of increasing size and give the smallest domino a tiny push, that momentum will knock down even the biggest domino in that chain. Look it up on YouTube to see them in action if you wish.
Now, imagine each story in Slade House is a part of a domino chain reaction. It starts off small in the first story with a character, Fred Pink, who last saw Nathan and his mother before they went missing – a small effect, but still significant as it starts off the chain reaction. In the second story, Fred, who has woken up from a nine-year coma, learns about their disappearance and informs the police that he last saw them in Slade Alley. Without Fred Pick, Gordon Edmonds wouldn’t have known about Slade House and put his visit on the police system. In the third story, a group of students – including Sally Timms – discover a pattern between the disappearances of Nathan and Gordon and go to find Slade House to learn more. In the fourth story, a journalist, Freya Timms, interviews Fred Pink to discover what really happened to her sister. In the last story, it ends with a massive conclusion thanks to Freya’s interviewing habits. I hope I’m making sense and not confusing you, but this is the best way I can describe how each story affects the following story. How these stories are interlinked is very clever. It has made me a fan of David Mitchell’s writing since he pulled this off amazingly.
The only problem I had with this book is most of the dialogue about the backstory to the house and the Grayer twins who owned it, as well as the dialogue between the Grayer twins themselves, feels like exposition. It is useful as it does explain why the Slade House is the way it is, how the Grayer twins manage to pull it off and why they do this every nine years, but there are moments where it feels like exposition. In fact, the fourth story is an interview between Freya and Fred, who explains about the house and twins to her. Using an interview is a good way to explain things – and besides, exposition isn’t a bad thing if it is written well – but I won’t lie and will say as I was reading about the backstory and the dialogue between the twins, it didn’t feel like natural dialogue. The rest of the book is written superbly with diverse and well-developed characters, hence why I couldn’t put it down and read it in a day, but to me, the exposition in those sections was a bit too much on the nose.
Despite that, Slade House is indeed a very well written book. The magical and psychic elements are discussed in great detail and with some complicated words and concepts, but I personally understood well enough to follow and imagine it in my head. It didn’t distract from the story either.
Even with a short amount of time for its characters to fully develop, they still manage to be developed enough for me to care, connect, laugh and worry about them. My favourite character has to be Sally Timms. She may have low self-esteem, but she loved her sister so much. In fact, I will not spoil it here, but her last appearance in the book was so good, I actually cheered her! Go, Sally, go!
I will give Slade House 4 stars out of 5. It is a very creepy book written in a clever style. In fact, I admit that I plan to read more of David Mitchell’s work in the future.
Thank you for reading!