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David Mitchell – Slade House

June 7, 2016

Mitchell, David - Slade House - 400LibraryThing Early Reviewers6. Slade House by David Mitchell (2015)

Length: 256 pages
Genre: Horror

Started: 25 January 2016
Finished: 31 January 2016

Where did it come from? LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Why do I have it? I read several of David Mitchell’s books about 10 years ago and liked them, but hadn’t been back since (for no good reason), so when I saw this one listed on LTER, I figured I’d give him another try.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 14 November 2015.

A secret door to
a house that isn’t there: For
Pete’s sake, DON’T GO IN.

Summary: Down a narrow alley from a regular pub, you’ll find a small iron door that leads to Slade House. Or maybe you’ll find it, but probably you won’t… and it’s probably better for you that you don’t. Because Slade House is only open on one day in October, once every nine years, and the brother and sister who live there don’t invite just anyone inside. The people they invite – an intelligent boy, a policeman, an awkward college student – don’t immediately appear to have much in common. But they do share something special… something, that is, apart from the fact that after they enter Slade House, they’re never seen again.

Review: Slade House is an effectively creepy little horror story; a unique take on the haunted house genre that works itself in nicely to David Mitchell’s larger universe. It’s told in five parts, each corresponding to one of the times that Slade House is open, starting in 1979 and spanning through 2015. It’s actually surprising how effective it is, and how compelling (and creepy) I found it, since the first three sections are essentially the same thing over and over again. The details are different, because the person is different, but the basic structure is repeated several times in a row. (Usually with the rule of three, the third time should be different, but in this case, things don’t start changing until the fourth go-round – more on that in a bit.) In some ways, this repetition adds to the creepiness, because as the reader, you’ve started to put things together, and there’s lots of “no get out of there DON’T GO UP THE STAIRS” yelling at the characters to be done as you watch them draw closer to the terrible things you know are coming. When things do start changing, though, it’s not quite as realized as I wanted it to be – it was unclear to me what exactly made that time different from any other time, so it didn’t feel entirely believable, or earned.

This book is set in the same world as The Bone Clocks, which I’d already read before picking up this book. I’m of three minds about this. One, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to read The Bone Clocks before reading Slade House – the horror elements seem like they’d work just fine without the backstory. Two, I think reading The Bone Clocks before reading Slade House would probably help – I always like to know the backstory, and I don’t know that Slade House‘s explanation of what the twins are really doing would make a lot of sense without already knowing about Horology and The Shaded Way. Three, I think reading The Bone Clocks before reading Slade House does somewhat spoil the ending of this book – there’s a recurring character who pops up in the fifth part of Slade House, and while you don’t need to know anything else about them to follow their action in this book, readers familiar with this character (highlight for spoilers) will know that they survive until Bone Clocks, thus draining a lot of the tension out of the last segment of this book.

Overall, this was a fast and interesting and effectively creepy read, even if it didn’t always explain itself fully. (Seriously, what’s up with the dude in the orange jogging suit?) 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: A lot of my issue with The Bone Clocks was that it was interesting but took these long self-indulgent meanders away from any semblance of plot. Slade House suffers no such problems; it gets straight down to business, and does so in an effectively creepy way. Good for an October night when you want something creepy but not so scary that you won’t be able to sleep.

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First Line: Whatever Mum’s saying’s drowned out by the grimy roar of the bus pulling away, revealing a pub called The Fox and Hounds.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 39: “Five years, one wedding, one dismal honeymoon in Venice, four Christmases with Julie’s godawful CND, tree-hugging relatives, fifteen hundred bowls of Shredded Wheat, two hundred and fifty bottles of wine, thirty haircuts, three toasters, three cats, two promotions, one Vauxhall Astra, a few boxes of Durex, two emergency visits to the dentist, dozens of arguments of assorted sizes and one beefed-up assault charge later, Julie’s still living in a cottage with a view of woods and horses, and I’m in a flat behind the multi-story car park.” – Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2016 10:24 am

    This might be too creepy for me.

  2. July 16, 2016 12:56 am

    I loved this book! I’m not normally a fan of split narratives (Cloud Atlas fell flat for me). I agree with you that the pacing of Slade House is excellent, and is a compelling and convincing horror.

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