Sunday, 22 November 2015

Slade House by David Mitchell

ReviewerJJ Marsh

What We Thought: Down a back alley is a small door, leading to an improbably large garden and exceptional house. Over decades, people are lured inside, with the promise of fulfilment. Fulfilment does indeed lurk within, but not for them.
Mitchell has often stated he’s writing an ‘über-novel’, with each of his books as chapters in it. Characters reappear, themes recur, motifs abound and certain questions are addressed from a variety of angles. Slade House is a whimsical chapter, an example of the author extrapolating and enjoying himself by delving into a plotline overtly from The Bone Clocks but less visibly, Cloud Atlas.

This ghost story began life as a Twitter tale, told in 140 character chunks. Its origins and length make it perfect for a dark and stormy night in front of the fire. Nods and winks to conventions of storytelling, haunted houses and fantastically alluring predators are familiar. The author’s trademark brilliance with voice and character sparkles as the victims’ stories are told through the prism of their own egos. References to the various periods are subtly flagged making this an ideal Christmas Eve TV adaptation. Are you listening, BBC?

There are some goosebumpy, skin-shivery moments, an increasing sense of menace and several hearty laughs. It’s not quite the Michelin-starred feast of Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green or The Bone Clocks, but rather like cheesy-beans-on-Marmite-toast. You scoff it down in one greedy sitting and afterwards feel smug and satisfied, but certainly not guilty.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: The Woman in White, The Little Stranger, Interview with the Vampire.

Avoid if you dislike: Spooky houses, shifting realities and hidden icebergs of references.

Ideal accompaniments: Honey-glazed roast pumpkin, a Bloody Mary and the soundtrack to The Hunger.

Genre: Literary fiction, fantasy

Available on Amazon

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