David Mitchell’s writing is (and here I was going to say ‘like Marmite’, but that analogy doesn’t work for me because I’ve always loved the stuff) a bit ‘hit and miss’ – gah – there’s GOT to be a better way of phrasing it – excuse me, it’s very VERY hot up here in my writing ‘snug’ and my brain may be a leetle beet fried.
I had to abandon the last David Mitchell: ‘The Bone Clocks’ even though I had the hardback and adored the cover and loved the start and premise of the story, but – BUT – the minute weirder than ‘just relax into it; forget the way the real world works and step away from the sensible’ stuff started happening and all kind of fusions of human/undead/otherworldly beings started manifesting themselves all over my lovely printed pages – sometimes over breakfast – then I’m afraid – even though I gave it my best shot (honestly – I even forced myself to stop sniggering at the names of some of these ‘beings’) I had to let it go. And it went to a far, far, better place – the charity shop down the road, and I hate HATE HATE WITH A VENGEANCE giving in. I’m not a quitter. But sometimes life’s too short to read a book that doesn’t make you happy. It wasn’t the book, it was me.
And I’d bought ‘The Bone Clocks’ because of how much I loved, ADORED, worshipped to the point of jotting down sentences I loved so much and re-reading whole chapters,‘Black Swan Green’. Which, as Karma/Yin-Yang would have it, I’d picked up in the very charity shop into which I would later be releasing ‘The Bone Clocks’. In fact I think David would’ve appreciated this spooky symbiosis.
So ‘Slade House‘. I ordered it because it wasn’t huge (at less than 250 pages it’s probably half the size of TBC). The blurb on the back reads:
“On one side of a high wall lies a narrow, dank alley; on the other; a sunlit garden; and between them, a small black iron door.”
No, it doesn’t tell you much, does it, but a quick scan of all the reviews on Amazon led me to believe this might be the next David Mitchell I was yearning for. And I was right. Not often I get to say that.
The main character IS the eponymous house. And each chapter tells the story – in periods of 9yrs apart – of the unfortunate (I won’t say ‘victims’ in case that’s a spoiler, she says, winking cheekily) folk who happen upon this small black iron door and manage (there’s a trick) to open it and venture inside. I shan’t say what’s going on in Slade House, but I can tell you that I adored each and every character and hated that I kind of knew what might be about to befall them before it happened – and the way they each met their fate was also written in a breathtakingly beautiful way.
The last chapter had me properly on the edge of my seat, and it was just as well I was in the doctor’s waiting room when I read it because I could’ve needed oxygen in parts.
And yes, okay, so some parts of it you absolutely HAVE to be willing to suspend belief with – because it is a kind of fabulistic read – but the ‘regular visitors’ are all normal – they’re any one of us – it’s the house that changes everything and everyone. Oh you’ll just have to read it to know what I’m blethering on about. Go on, you know you want to now.
9/10 Creepy, weirdy, page-turnery brilliance.