It’s almost Halloween so I decided to read David Mitchell’s horror novel Slade House. Mitchell has taken the typical haunted house story and transformed it into something new and different. I decided to read this because of this year’s R.I.P. challenge. Slade House was selected as the group read; otherwise, I might have skipped over this one. I’m happy I read it as it is much more than your average chilling read although there are plenty of frights.
The entrance to Slade House is located at the end of an alley and only opens every nine years for the right person. The book is divided into five chapters, each one told by a different narrator set nine years apart. For each person, Slade House appears as something entirely different from the one before. However, getting out is a completely different matter entirely. The truth is that guests of Slade House never escape.
I was really impressed with how Mitchell can capture so many different types of characters. The dangers of writing a book with several first-person narrators is that they can all start to sound the same. This isn’t a problem with Slade House. As with my two previous Mitchell experiences of Cloud Atlas and Ghostwritten, I found each chapter to be in a refreshingly different voice. From a young child to a lonely detective to an overweight female teenager with self-esteem issues, Mitchell manages to capture their specific personalities quite well.
My favorite section was the one following Sally Timms in 1997. Mitchell captures the loneliness and insecurities of being a teenage outcast. This brought back memories, not necessarily pleasant, of my own teenage experiences of budding romance and angst. Although by this point, I got that this person isn’t going to escape either, I found myself rooting for each character just like in watching a horror film.
I really liked that there was a science fiction element to the book, which gets explained more during the final two chapters. We learn more about what is actually going on with the house and how the responsible characters came to exist. It definitely elevated the book beyond the horror of the first three chapters into something else. However, I questioned if there was too much exposition, that possibly this could have been an even stronger book if we hadn’t learned so much about the reasons for the house’s existence.
The ending felt pretty abrupt as well. I was definitely left wanting more when the book was finished. It is my understanding that Slade House is set in the same universe as The Bone Clocks, so I will definitely need to read that one soon in order to heighten my appreciation for this book.