The Red House is a novel written by a poet. The story itself takes place over the course of a week’s vacation in the English countryside. An adult bro...moreThe Red House is a novel written by a poet. The story itself takes place over the course of a week’s vacation in the English countryside. An adult brother and sister who don’t really know each other, and their respective spouses and children. A story of unexpected conversations, sympathies, alliances and conflicts. It is the stuff of everyday lives, but in Haddon’s hands the trials of childhood, marriage, and life in general become anything but commonplace.
Empathetic? Sure. In The Red House Haddon lets us see short bursts of other peoples’ minds. Stream-of-conscious snippets that show you what Angela is thinking on the train ride out to the country, or what images come back to Richard as he remembers his childhood. It’s effective because he deploys it so carefully, never going overboard, never dragging on so you might think “Jeez, can we get back to the story?”
And how completely we get into everyone’s heads! At one point I had the sincerest concern and understanding for a seventeen-year-old boy. While I could reach a certain level of understanding, there are a few characters that I just couldn’t bring myself to feel sorry for (Melissa and Dominic, mostly), even though Haddon does a wonderful job of humanizing them. He forgives them by letting them forgive each other.
In conclusion: If you love a good domestic drama, Haddon’s other work, or if you’re an Anglophile, this is the book for you. (less)
**spoiler alert** It starts as an early 20th Century comedy of manners, although it's not actually as funny as I was hoping it would be. The dinner pa...more**spoiler alert** It starts as an early 20th Century comedy of manners, although it's not actually as funny as I was hoping it would be. The dinner party devolves into a Lord of the Flies-type situation, then finally we arrive at a ghost story. I kept reading because I was just curious enough, and the book wasn't quite bad enough to put down. No one character was particularly enthralling. Smudge is my favorite, the most likeable, the most human, and the resulting troubles when she brings a horse into the house do provide a little comic relief. Mostly my problem with the book is that it didn't actually explain enough about what was going on with the people from the railway, the mysterious gentleman interloper in particular. How was he able to (temporarily) escape death? Why was it neessary to bring all the rest of the passengers with him? What did Charlotte do to get rid of him? The novel seems incomplete without these things. (less)
In general I'm not a mystery reader, but Tana French is my big exception. She has everything I like in a good book: complex female characters, psychol...moreIn general I'm not a mystery reader, but Tana French is my big exception. She has everything I like in a good book: complex female characters, psychologically compelling plot lines, and you can tell she's done her research (and where she fudges, it's at least believable). Generally mysteries (and especially series) tend to be formulaic. French's four novels are no exception, she just happens to have a formula I like: a Dublin detective gets assigned to a murder case that brings back memories of an adolescent/family trauma, a psychological can of worms is opened, suspense and extreme creepiness ensue. There’s plenty of commentary on modern Irish (and Western) society along the way, all in French’s lyrical style. Broken Harbor has three kinds of drama going on: 1) the twists and turns of a triple-murder investigation, in which the detectives can't even agree on who their main suspect should be; 2) the tentative friendship developing between the two lead detectives, Mike “Scorcher” Kennedy, an older man with his share of battle scars, and Richie Curran, a rookie; and 3) Kennedy’s struggle to keep his mentally ill sister from doing any damage, either to herself or his investigation. I wasn’t sure I would like her books as much once she took Cassie Maddox, co-star of her first three novels, out of the equation, but everything else I liked remained: the strong voices, believable characters, and deep examination of the human psyche. (less)
I'll just say it: I can't help feeling like the main reason this series got so popular is because it's extremely physically violent, but also totally...moreI'll just say it: I can't help feeling like the main reason this series got so popular is because it's extremely physically violent, but also totally sexually puritanical. Maybe that's too harsh. Overall I actually really liked these books. It's a series starring a young woman protagonist who gets scared but still acts courageously, who has conflicting loyalties and sometimes doubts even herself. It's got a diverse cast of characters, and (in the time of Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl) it actually takes a (somewhat) honest look at economic inequality. And of course it's a suspenseful, dystopian story with no neat, happy endings, which I respect. For something that looks so fuffy on the outside, it's got a respectable amount of depth to it. (less)
I did like this book, really - I just can't quite figure enough to tell you why. The parents are jerks, the brothers are both jerks (the one who's mur...moreI did like this book, really - I just can't quite figure enough to tell you why. The parents are jerks, the brothers are both jerks (the one who's murdered - over a business rivalry? over his gambling problem? - and the lawyer who survives to tell the tale). It's got to be the voice, then, hasn't it? Even if David Berg doesn't come across as entirely sympathetic in his own dang narrative, he's at least a good storyteller.
ps - Did you know Woody Harrelson's father was a hitman? I won't spoil anything else.(less)