Review: Slade House – David Mitchell

I’ve had David Mitchell on my TBR for some time now, and I finally decided onslade-house Slade House
after seeing Lish mention it on Alisha’s Words of Wonder as something on her TBR as well. Thank you for the inspo!
I was really at a loss for what I was in the mood for. I’ve been looking for something to take me out of reality, as a good story does, and success, David Mitchell does it beautifully.

Side note, I am about to hit my 9-month mark in Thailand and have been talking about this a lot, but it just doesn’t seem that long! I think I’ve figured out why: the seasons never change here so you may as well be living in just an on-going summer day, give or take a rain storm or two. I think growing up with that change of seasons in Chicago, the weather change is much more a time marker for me than a weekend ever will be.

Slade House was a perfect dreary England setting that bends time in ways not even the seasons do, it was the perfect “somewhere else” that I needed at this moment. In my post Should I Read About Hiking While Hiking? I talked about how your setting affects your choices. This week I definitely wanted something that was far away, I didn’t need a book to remind me how many bugs emerge during the rainy season in Thailand, I can see that with my own eyes, thank you very much.

Here are my thoughts on Slade House (Goodreads) – I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something original to occupy your thoughts for a bit.

Slade House – Keep your eyes peeled for a small black iron door.

Synopsis: 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: I love something a little weird and David Mitchell does weird very well. I had previously read that The Bone Clocks should be read prior to Slade House for a few contextual clues, but I went on ahead and still loved the story, even without the clues. The Bone Clocks has moved up my TBR now, so I’ll update if it seems like you really should have read it first.

The best part of Slade House was the author’s ability to create such distinct character voices in the short periods of time you have to get to know them. Nathan Bishop stands out, as both the first character you meet, and as the introduction to Mitchell’s ability to put you inside a character’s head with just a few words. Nathan seems to fit the Asperger’s category on the autism spectrum and the way Mitchell is able to express how this child might process his environment is amazing; you see Nathan’s read on the world around him and how a person with a similar brain might process tones of voices and facial expressions the way a non-autistic person never even consider them. The voice really changes the introduction to the setting and made it even better. For example, when Jonah is first introduced Nathan says that Jonah is a “maroon-colored name”, just meditate on that for a second when you finish the book. It’s very true and you would’ve never thought to describe it that way, nor can you explain why it fits. But Jonah is definitely Maroon, and I think Norah is kind of a slick white-Ice Blue. Mitchell’s character development was also top notch with Sally Timm’s. He never explains her thought processes and why she is the way she is outright, but you never need it. His ability to express his character’s thoughts so that it feels you are thinking them as well drew me in deep.

Mitchell’s rhythm in telling the story was very unique and you can seriously feel it, the way the momentum builds and then he cuts offs where you think the moment might end…. Then picks right back up again. You’re reading and (internally) you get that feeling that your neck is stretching and the story is building and something big is going to happen and BOOM, your shoulder’s hunch back down and your nose is closer to the book because, no, something else is going to happen! The rhythm and the pace had me flying through this book. He also does circular well, he is able to bring the reader back to the same setting or repeated moment in the story and it never seems dull. This could have easily been repetitive, but he never gave you the same feeling twice; actually you knew the characters so well you knew each wouldn’t react to that circular point in the same way.

I loved Slade House for Mitchell’s ability to give you the information you need about the character background without feeling like he’s stepping away from the action of the story. I will say though since we do have that background about the characters and the powers they’re interacting with, the ending left me feeling like I need to know more. I am not one to ever put down the book for a minute to see if I can guess the ending, I think that ruins the story. I let the action come as it will, I like to see how the author wants the story to unfold and my reactions to be natural. I would love to see, not necessarily a sequel, but the same characters appearing in another setting or even another time.

I usually find one little tiny thing about a story that is my favorite part, it’s generally not something broad such as a character or setting or what not, but usually the way the author uses language to describe something in a unique way. While reading Slade House it was his descriptions of the Valium affects on Nathan once the drug starts to work in this body. It was almost beautiful, as beautiful as chemicals altering your brain can be (“[…] I feel my Valium kicking in. Reds are glossier, blues glassier, greens steamier and whites see-through like one layer of two-ply tissue.”). I guess you could include all of the language describing Nathan’s thought process or visuals as my favorite part, really.

On the whole, I am giving Slade House a 4 out of 5. I loved the book, would definitely recommend it, and can’t wait to read more David Mitchell. I hope it comes out with a related novel, expanding more on this world.

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