Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Red House by Mark Haddon

Hardback: 264 pages
GenreContemporary Literary Fiction
Publisher:  Jonathan Cape 2012

Source:  Tywyn Library, Wales.
First Sentences: 'Cooling towers and sewage farms. Finstock, Charlbury, Ascott-under-Wychwood. Seventy miles per hour, the train unzips the fields.'

Favourite Quote: “You could ask for hugs if you were feeling sad or you'd hurt yourself, but when it happened spontaneously it made you feel warm inside.” 
Review Quote: "A hugely enjoyable, sympathetic novel...a tremendous pleasure...we have been absorbed, entertained and moved" (Kate Kellaway Observer )
My Opinion:The clipped style the novel is written in did not make for easy reading. 

It was indeed a captivating read but the clipped style the novel is written in did not make for easy reading, but once I got used to the style I became extremely involved with the characters. Eight of them in all with very complicated stories to tell painting a vivid picture of contemporary family life. The novel tells the story from all the characters viewpoints as the interconnecting relationships are explained and exposed one feels that you know the personalities as individuals so much more than they know each other. Not just do we learn of their worries, secrets and desires but little personal details such as what they are reading, or music they are listening to, which although it adds to the narrative it can make it feel disjointed at times.  I certainly needed to concentrate reading this one but it was worthwhile.

The story takes place over a week in a holiday home in the Welsh countryside where two families gather together. After the death of his mother, Richard has decided to make an effort with his estranged sister Angela and invited their respective families to spend some time together. As mentioned before there are eight characters to get to know, Richard a successful doctor has recently got married to Louisa and gained a strong willed teenage step daughter, Melissa in the process, which makes three of them. His sister Angela is married to Dominic and their three children teenagers Alex and Daisy, plus a younger son Benjy make the eight protagonists.
It is then the fun begins as like many family gatherings all over the world a week in close confinement brings out the animosity in them all.
In conclusion a deceptively simple idea that makes for an ingenious novel about family dysfunction in modern society that will appeal to many, but do not expect a happy ending.

Author  Profile

Mark Haddon was born on   September 26, 1962, he is an author, illustrator and screenwriter who has written fifteen books for children and won two BAFTAs. Educated at Merton College, Oxford, Uppingham School, University of Edinburgh and the University of Oxford.  At Oxford he studied English after which, he was employed in several different occupations. One included working with people with disabilities, and another included creating illustrations and cartoons for magazines and newspapers. He lived in Boston, Massachusetts for a year with his wife until they moved back to England. Then, Mark took up painting and selling abstract art. In 1987, Haddon wrote his first children’s book, Gilbert’s Gobstopper. This was followed by many other children’s books, which were often self-illustrated. 
It was not until 2003 that his best selling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, was  published,  it won seventeen literary prizes, including the Whitbread Award. His poetry collection, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, was published by Picador in 2005, and his last novel, The Red House, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2012. He lives in Oxford with his wife Dr Sos Eltis  a Fellow and Tutor in English of Brasenose College, Oxford.

The link below is to a very interesting BBC Interview with the author.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and his writing. 


  1. Thank you very much Lindy for writing about this. I have been contemplating to read this book since a long time now.

    1. Have I tempted you to do so? If you do read, do call by and let me know your thoughts.

  2. It sounds like a very intriguing read, Linda. I like your favorite quote: “You could ask for hugs if you were feeling sad or you'd hurt yourself, but when it happened spontaneously it made you feel warm inside.”

    1. It was indeed Krista, yes the quote is appealing.

  3. Oh Linda, I am so very sorry about your husband. You are so brave to continue blogging, but I am very glad that you have. It was such a lovely surprise to see you in my comments today. I have not been active over the summer, as you may have gathered. I wish you all the love in the world, and wish I could be there to hug you. With much love, Linda xx

    1. The virtual hugs were appreciated Linda, thanks for your kind words. It is taking me awhile to get back into a blogging routine but I am determined to do so as when I discussed giving up blogging with David, he had urged me not to do so.

    2. Good Linda, I am glad he did, because I have missed you. Thanks for your lovely comments, they are so encouraging. I hope you are enjoying Wales, and being close to family? I am sure you will miss your lovely home and garden in Italy, and the life you shared with David there. You certainly lived life anyway.All my love. Linda xx

    3. Thanks Linda, I am continuing to write about my life adventure on my other blog Travel Tales, hope you will call by sometimes.


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