By David Mitchell
Genre: Fiction / Mystery Thriller
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.
Review by Coll
My Rating: 4 Coffee Cups
**I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**
I want to start off by saying that this story takes place in the same world as The Bone Clocks so you might want to read that book first, but it is not necessary and you can get away with reading this book on its own. This story spans decades and follows multiple characters who all have run-ins with the Slade House and are all linked to one another through their experiences with the house. The black, iron door to the garden of Slade House is child size, unassuming, and not visible to everyone. Every nine years someone encounters the door, and those who find it and go through it wish they never had. From the first people to disappear at Slade House to those who go looking for them, this story follows what happens to each one of them when they try to unravel a decades long mystery of an elusive house and the mysterious and sinister twins who reside there. Take your typical haunted house tale and twist it around and turn it upside-down and Slade House is what you would get.
In this story Mitchell uses the technique that he has come to master, of jumping years and switching between characters seamlessly and telling a perfectly cohesive story in the process (similar to the style he used in Cloud Atlas but not as complex). The story hooks you right from the beginning, even though you have no idea what is going on, and it is almost as if the main appeal of this book is the idea of not knowing. Written in five parts, a mystery is built and slowly unraveled over the decades the book follows and the reader undergoes a rather intense learning process to understand the story.
What is done brilliantly in this book is that each character’s story is akin to one another yet it never gets boring. In most cases, telling a similar story over and over again would come off as redundant but Mitchell was able to avoid that and tell a compelling story for each person. Every character is portrayed in such a way that in a short period of time you cannot help but care for them and feel an emotional attachment to them. I have read longer books that are unable to develop the characters well, so to invoke feelings towards many characters in such a short period of time comes off as quite an accomplishment. The people in the story are also shown with emphasis on their human qualities, ones that seem so mundane but in the end expose why they were the ones chosen to find the Slade House. Mitchell draws upon characteristics we would normally see as negative and shows how these are the things that make people human.
Slade House is a quick read and I was never once bored with it, but a part of me wishes it had not been so quick. I would have liked a slightly longer story because at times I felt the book was a little rushed. Aside from that, I thought this book was very well done and never fell flat once in terms of the story. It is highly imaginative, as are all of Mitchell’s stories, and towards the end it does become rather involved and complex, in all the right ways. Incredibly fantastical ideas are woven throughout the climax of this story and you cannot help but be impressed with the level of creativity it took to come up with the world we encounter in the Slade House.
As a standalone this book is quite successful, but I do believe the knowledge you would gain from reading The Bone Clocks first would be beneficial for the last part of the book. Slade House is beautifully written and tells an eerie and malevolent story. It does not scare you outright but instead it injects an ominous feeling into you and slowly chills your soul as the pieces of the story come together and you learn the secrets of the Slade House.
“Tonight feels like a board game co-designed by M.C. Escher on a bender and Stephen King in a fever.”
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