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The Red House: A Novel Hardcover – June 12, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385535775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385535779
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the wake of their mother's death, disconnected siblings Angela and Richard come together with their families for a week in the English countryside. There, the eight family members find themselves lost, disoriented, or challenged by the family past and present. Narrator Maxwell Caulfield has the monumental task of capturing and juggling these different characters, and, unfortunately, doesn't rise to the task. While his narration is magisterial and crisp, and he captures the book's mood throughout, he unfortunately uses the same tone and projection for each character. This confuses listeners about which character is speaking and proves disorienting and distracting. A full cast might have better executed this audio edition. A Doubleday hardcover. (June) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Review

"Absorbing....  Even if you don’t see your relatives in these pages, you’ll learn to appreciate their ungainly efforts to reach out and maintain those old filial bonds....What holds our interest is Haddon’s extraordinary sympathy, his ability to reveal what stirs these people beneath their congenial holiday faces....a brilliant portrayal of the asymmetric nature of resentment within families....But it’s Hardon’s peculiar structure that raises this family drama to something exceptional. He’s perfected a constantly shifting perspective that keeps our sympathies from taking root in any one of these characters....the effect is symphonic....Haddon wends a careful path in this novel between the effervescent comedy of quirky families and the bitter tragedy of dysfunctional ones."
--The Washington Post

"A story of remarkable complexity, exploring the rich interior lives of his characters.....Most impressive is the ambitious structure of this novel....there's an abundance of dark humor....the story moves along swiftly and seamlessly."
--USA Today

“In this absorbing, Virginia Woolf-esque novel by the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, an extended family gathers for a  week in the English countryside. Perfect (or not) for that holiday with the in-laws.”
--People

"“The story unfolds from all eight characters’ points of view, a tricky strategy that pays off, letting Haddon dig convincingly into all of the failures, worries and weaknesses that they can’t leave behind"
--Entertainment Weekly

"Particularly fresh and true"
--O Magazine

“A beautiful and authentic portrait of a blended family and the secrets, grudges and desires that keep its members apart”
--Real Simple

"In Mark Haddon's The Red House, a nuclear family detonates delightfully....particular, vivid, attentive....a wonderful perspective"
--Cleveland Plain Dealer

"A fun, fast-paced read from one of our finest storytellers"
--Dallas Morning News

"THE RED HOUSE employs the same empathy for its varied characters and the same sharply observed, skewed view of the 'ordinary' world....creates a mosaic whose pieces add up to a picture no one character can see....satisfying and believable....Haddon writes with a gentle, compassionate sense of irony"
--Columbus Dispatch


"Haddon peers inside the messy dynamics of a group of relatives, each grappling with their own fears and trying to make sense of themselves as a family....braids together themes of sexual identity, parental insecurity and sibling rivalry, and no one gets away unscathed"
--NPR

"Exciting and accessible"
--The Daily Beast

“Amusing and poignant as it explores a family’s fumbling attempts at connection”
--Whole Living

"Surprising and deeply moving....the set-up ensures that there will be revelations, twists and shifts in the family dynamic....sustaining suspense....while enriching the developing relationships among people....organic rather than contrived, the characters convincing throughout, the tone compassionate and the writing wise. A novel to savor."
--Kirkus, starred review 

“[Haddon] is almost unrivalled at the notoriously tricky task of giving an authentic voice to children, and his ability to pinpoint the comic aspects of the everyday scenarios.”
--Sunday Times

"A masterly evocation of two dysfunctional, yet outwardly respectable families."
--Sunday Express

“Mark Haddon is terrifyingly talented.”
--Times (UK)

"A serious, lyrical, complex novel....beautiful"
--The Herald

"Hugely enjoyable, sympathetic novel would make perfect reading for those setting out on holiday"
--The Observer

"[Haddon is] a master craftsman"
--The Independent

"With writing as elegant and truthful as this, readers will wish to keep their copies close at hand to savour again.”
--The Daily Mail

"[Haddon] writes like a dream. Never showy, but often lyrically descriptive, he takes the reader with him to the core of this crazy family. Secondly, he has a true understanding of the human heart."
--Spectator

"It’s every bit as charmingly idiosyncratic as his brilliant The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
--The Daily Mirror

"Engaging....From the first page in which the train carrying Dominic and Angela's family "unzips the fields", there is a vigor to Haddon's prose which carries you along. I read it twice, both times with enjoyment.”
--The Independent

Praise for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

“A triumph of empathy.”
The New Yorker

“Gloriously eccentric and wonderfully intelligent.”
The Boston Globe

“Moving . . . wonderfully vivid . . . Mr. Haddon writes with such sympathy, such understanding.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Haddon’s book illuminates the way one mind works so precisely, so humanely, that it reads like both an acutely observed case study and an artful exploration of a different ‘mystery’: the thoughts and feelings we share even with those very different from us.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Funny, sad and totally convincing.”
Time



Praise for A Spot of Bother

“So astute, so gently funny, so touching, that you get caught up in the fate of the well-meaning, if slightly imprudent, Hall family.”
USA Today

“Snaps, crackles and pops with humor and pathos as Haddon depicts family members driving one another crazy . . . sparklingly written with short, punchy chapters . . . Haddon deftly pulls this off with what we can now hail as his trademark tenderness.”
Los Angeles Times

“A nonstop pleasure.”
People

“Superbly entertaining . . . Haddon’s particular genius, however, lies in the unobtrusive way he makes us identify with his characters . . . fine craftsmanship.”
The Washington Post Book World


“Totally brilliant . . . [Haddon is]so wondrously articulate, so rigorous in thinking through his characters’ mind-sets, that A Spot of Bother serves as a fine example of why novels exit.”
The New York Times Book Review

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Customer Reviews

I will not read on, I will not finish this book.
arthur
There is little to like about any of the book's characters-- actually, almost nothing -- and I found that I couldn't connect with or relate to any of them.
Gary K. McCormick
The book is written from the points of view of numerous characters, all in different styles and types of narration and writing.
Lauri Crumley Coates

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 90 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In "The Red House," by Mark Haddon, forty-seven year old Angela is disconsolate after burying her mother, who had been ailing for quite a while. "Her [mother's] death should have been a relief," but strangely, it hurt more than she expected. Partly to get away from it all, Angela decides to accept an unexpected invitation from Richard, her estranged brother. Along with her husband, Dominic, and their three children, seventeen-year-old Alex, sixteen-year-old Daisy, and eight-year-old Benjy, Angela will spend a week near "the fine sandy beaches of Herefordshire" with Richard, his second wife, Louisa, and Louisa's surly sixteen-year-old, Melissa.

This makes for an uncomfortable mix, to say the least. These eight individuals all have secrets, longings, and resentments. Haddon gives each person a voice, revealing his or her regrets, fears, and desires. Benjy is a nervous child with a vivid imagination; Daisy has become ostentatiously religious; Alex is athletic--all hormones and machismo; Melissa is sharp-edged and sarcastic; and forty-four year old Louisa is vulnerable and sensitive. Richard, although prosperous, has professional and personal issues of his own, and Dominic is very much aware that he has been a poor breadwinner and his marriage is faltering. Angela is in the worst shape of all. She still mourns the loss of her stillborn baby eighteen years earlier, eats for comfort, and worries that she will eventually become demented like her mother.

This does not sound too cheery, does it? In fact, "The Red House" is a dour exploration of family dysfunction in which Haddon interweaves figurative language and symbolism with his characters' inner thoughts and dialogue. Some of the writing is pretentious, if not downright bizarre.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Red House is a closely observed domestic drama that gives the impression of being a random slice-of-life, but in which every character is coming to terms with something or experiencing a revelation. The action is subtle and often interior, and what really counts is not what happens so much as the sharp observations of how people behave and feel, and the gap between the two.

Some readers may be put off by the style in which Haddon relates this complexly dysfunctional family drama. The novel opens impressionistically, introducing eight people speeding towards the same spot by train and car. Images rush past windows, glimpsed and gone. The destination is a self-catering holiday cottage near Hay-on-Wye, where there will be "Scrabble, a tatty box in some drawer, a pack of fifty-one playing cards, a pamphlet from a goat farm". And, of course, rain. The week's holiday has been arranged by wealthy, middle-aged Richard, attempting to reconcile with his long-estranged sister Angela in the wake of their mother's death. As adult children of emotionally damaged parents, their shared past has left them with different impressions and sympathies, as well as a raft of baggage which has impacted on their own families. Richard is married to second wife Louisa, a pretty fortysomething from a few rungs down the social ladder; Angela's spouse is Dominic. Jaded, beset by financial worries, their marriage has declined into a state of loveless habit. They bring along 17-year-old Alex, aching with testosterone, 16-year-old Daisy, who has recently found God, and eight-year-old Benjy, a fearful child struggling with the first pangs of existential angst.
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60 of 68 people found the following review helpful By L. Young VINE VOICE on May 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved 'The Curious Incident of the Dog', so I looked forward to reading 'The Red House'. Disappointment quickly ensued when I read this disjointed and irritating novel. It's the story of a dysfunctional family in England. Richard, a successful physician and recently re-married to Louisa, invites his estranged sister Angela and her family on a vacation to the English countryside. In addition to the adults there are four children, three belonging to Angela and her husband Dominic and one belonging to Louisa from a previous marriage. The adults are bitter, the children are moody and sullen. Is there anything new here? No.

The book jacket touts this as a 'dazzlingly inventive novel'. It's called inventive because what story there is is told in a series of epidsodic paragraphs. Each paragraph tells us what a character might be thinking, or the lyrics of a song they are listening to, or lines in a book they are reading. The result is a disjointed mess. Most often it is difficult to determine who is speaking, thinking or reading. This quickly degenerates into an irritating exercise for the reader and this reader quickly lost interest in the story Haddon is trying to tell.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Luiz on June 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and A Spot of Bother, so I was very excited once I heard about this novel, and then became utterly disappointed with what a chore this one is to read. It's told in a stream of consciousness style when eight people get together -- an estranged brother and sister and their two families for a week of vacation after the brother and sister's mother died. The point of view shifts from one person's interior thoughts to the next from one paragraph to another, but often the switch occurs within a paragraph. Countless times throughout the book you have to re-read sections to figure out whose point of view it is, and a several times it's impossible to guess. Often there are passages when we get excerpts of what someone is reading -- and you can't always be sure which character it is. While this may be interesting the first few times, it quickly becomes tedious. Then there are riffs like this one:

Marja, Helmand. The sniper far back enough from the window to stop sun flaring on the rifle sight. Crack and kickback. A marine stumbles under the weight of his red buttonhole. Dawn light on wile horses in the Kentii Mountains. Huddershfield, brown sugar bubbling in a tarnished spoon. Turtles drown in oil. The purr of binary, a trillion ones and zeroes. The swill of bonds and futures. Reckitt Benckiser, Smith and Nephew. Rifts and magma chambers. Eyjafjallajokull smoking like a witch's cauldron.

It goes on like this for many more lines -- I'm not sure what it's supposed to be -- descriptions of all that's going on in the world, while these 8 people try to make sense of their lives?

Late in the book, we just get a long list of every item in a novelty shop the characters visit.
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