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The Red House
Cover of The Red House
The Red House
A Novel
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From Mark Haddon, the bestselling author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, comes a dazzlingly inventive novel about modern family life.
Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister and her family to join his family for a week at a vacation home in the English countryside. Against the backdrop of a strange family gathering, Haddon skillfully weaves together the stories of eight very different people forced into close quarters. The Red House is a symphony of long-held grudges, fading dreams and rising hopes, tightly guarded secrets and illicit desires, painting a portrait of contemporary family life that is at once bittersweet, comic, and deeply felt.

From Mark Haddon, the bestselling author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, comes a dazzlingly inventive novel about modern family life.
Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister and her family to join his family for a week at a vacation home in the English countryside. Against the backdrop of a strange family gathering, Haddon skillfully weaves together the stories of eight very different people forced into close quarters. The Red House is a symphony of long-held grudges, fading dreams and rising hopes, tightly guarded secrets and illicit desires, painting a portrait of contemporary family life that is at once bittersweet, comic, and deeply felt.

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Excerpts-
  • From the book Haddon / THE RED HOUSE

    friday

    Cooling towers and sewage farms. Finstock, Charlbury, Ascott-­under-­Wychwood. Seventy miles per hour, the train unzips the fields. Two gun-­gray lines beside the river’s meander. Flashes of sun on the hammered metal. Something of steam about it, even now. Hogwarts and Adlestrop. The night mail crossing the border. Cheyenne sweeping down from the ridge. Delta blues from the boxcar. Somewhere, those secret points that might just switch and send you curving into a world of uniformed porters and great-­aunts and summers at the lake.

    Angela leant against the cold window, hypnotized by the power lines as they sagged and were scooped up by the next gantry, over and over and over. Polytunnels like silver mattresses, indecipherable swirls of graffiti on a brick siding. She’d buried her mother six weeks ago. A bearded man in a suit with shiny elbows playing “Danny Boy” on Northumbrian pipes. Everything off-­kilter, the bandage on the vicar’s hand, that woman chasing her windblown hat between the headstones, the dog that belonged to no one. She thought her mother had left the world a long way back, the weekly visits mostly for Angela’s own benefit. Boiled mutton, Classic FM and a commode in flesh-­colored plastic. Her death should have been a relief. Then the first spade of earth hit the coffin, a bubble rose in her chest and she realized her mother had been what . . . ? A cornerstone? A breakwater?



    The week after the funeral Dominic had been standing at the sink bottle-­brushing the green vase. The last of the freak snow was still packed down the side of the shed and the rotary washing line was turning in the wind. Angela came in holding the phone as if it was a mystery object she’d found on the hall table. That was Richard.

    Dominic upended the vase on the wire rack. And what did he want?

    He’s offered to take us on holiday.

    He dried his hands on the tea towel. Are we talking about your brother, or some entirely different Richard?

    We are indeed talking about my brother.

    He really had no idea what to say. Angela and Richard had spent no more than an afternoon in each other’s company over the last fifteen years and their meeting at the funeral had seemed perfunctory at best. Where’s the exotic location?

    He’s rented a house on the Welsh border. Near Hay-­on-­Wye.

    The fine sandy beaches of Herefordshire. He halved the tea towel and hung it over the radiator.

    I said yes.

    Well, thanks for the consultation.

    Angela paused and held his eye. Richard knows we can’t afford a holiday of our own. I’m not looking forward to it any more than you, but I didn’t have a great deal of choice.

    He held up his hands. Point taken. They’d had this argument way too many times. Herefordshire it is then.

    Ordnance Survey 161. The Black Mountains / Y Mynyddoedd Duon. Dominic flipped up the pink cover and unfolded the big paper concertina. He had loved maps since he was a boy. Here be monsters. X marks the spot. The edges of the paper browned and scalloped with a burning match, messages flashed from peak to peak using triangles of broken mirror.

    He looked sideways at Angela. So hard to remember that girl on the far side of the union bar, her shoulders in that blue summer dress. She disgusted him now, the size and sag of her, the veins on her calves, almost a grandmother. He dreamt of her dying unexpectedly, rediscovering all those freedoms he’d lost twenty years ago. Then he had the same dream five minutes later and he remembered what...
About the Author-
  • Mark Haddon is the author of the bestselling novels The Red House and A Spot of Bother, and the short story collection The Pier Falls and Other Stories. His novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction and is the basis for the Tony Award–winning play. He is the author of a collection of poetry, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea, has written and illustrated numerous children’s books, and has won awards for both his radio dramas and his television screenplays. He teaches creative writing for the Arvon Foundation and lives in Oxford, England.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 27, 2012
    Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) sets his sights on the modern social novel with a seriously dysfunctional family. Radiologist Richard, newly remarried to Louisa, who has something of a “footballer’s wife” about her, hosts his resentful sister Angela and her family at his vacation home in the English countryside for the week. Both Richard’s new wife, and her cold-blooded 16-year-old daughter, Melissa, arouse the attentions of Angela’s teenage children: son Alex, and daughter Daisy, whose sexual curiosity might lead her to trouble. Angela’s uninterested husband, Dominic; their youngest son, Benjy; and the lurking ghost of their stillborn child round out the family. But most of all there’s the universe of media—from books and iPods to DVDs and video games—that fortifies everyone’s private world; intrudes upon a week of misadventures, grudges, and unearthed secrets; and illuminates Haddon’s busy approach to fairly sedate material, a choice that unfortunately makes the payoffs seldom worth the pages of scattershot perspective. Characters are well-drawn (especially regarding the marital tensions lurking below facades of relative bliss), but what emerges is typical without being revelatory, familiar without becoming painfully human. The tiresomely quirky Haddon misses the epochal timbre that Jonathan Franzen hit with Freedom, and his constantly distracted novel is rarely more than a distraction itself. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from May 1, 2012
    A familiar premise inspires surprising and deeply moving results, fulfilling the British novelist's considerable promise. Haddon became a literary sensation with his debut (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, 2003), a critical and commercial success which relied for effect on a tricky narrative perspective--a protagonist who was not only unreliable, but autistic. He then succumbed to a severe case of sophomore jinx with A Spot of Bother (2006), a novel that suggested that the debut was the only gimmick that Haddon had in him. What surprises about his third novel is that it's not only his best, it's his most conventional, at least in terms of the plot. Following the death of their mother, a brother and sister, who hadn't maintained much contact and had felt some estrangement, bring their families together for a weeks' vacation. With a spirit that evokes A Midsummer Night's Dream (to which one of the characters compares this idyll), the setup ensures that there will be revelations, twists and shifts in the family dynamic. Angela has three children whom she loves (all detailed richly and empathically), a husband she tolerates, and the memory of a stillborn daughter whom she still mourns (18 years later). Richard, a wealthier doctor who has arranged this family reunion with his sister, has a younger second wife, a career crisis, and a stepdaughter who is as mean-spirited as she is attractive. Where similar novels often devote whole chapters to the perspective of a character, this one shifts perspective with every paragraph, sustaining suspense (sometimes as to whose mind the paragraph reflects) while enriching the developing relationships among people who barely know each other, in a place where "the normal rules had been temporarily suspended." There will be flirting across generations and gender, sexual orientations discovered and revealed, and deep secrets unearthed. "What strangers we are to ourselves," muses one character, "changed in the twinkling of an eye." Yet the plot feels organic rather than contrived, the characters convincing throughout, the tone compassionate and the writing wise. A novel to savor.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2012

    Newly remarried and stuck with a headstrong stepdaughter, wealthy doctor Richard tries to mend fences with sister Angela by inviting her and her family for a week's stay at a vacation home in the English countryside. But Angela has a hopeless husband and three cranky kids of her own, and the week serves up secrets and misunderstandings, relentless grudges and dashed dreams. In lesser hands, this could be dreary, but I expect the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to deliver an insightful, delicately tuned, bittersweet account of the contemporary family.

    Copyright 2012 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    May 1, 2012
    Shortly after their mother's death, wealthy doctor Richard invites his estranged sister and her family to accompany him on holiday in the Welsh countryside with his new wife and teenage stepdaughter. Angela, a teacher grieving in a much less clinical fashion than her brother, convinces her husband and their three children to come on the premise that it's the best, or only, vacation they can afford, and so begins the novel's seven-day dramaeach relative descending on the country manse with an obligation either to invite another or to attend on another's behalf. Haddon instantly engages the reader with his comically intimate portrayals of realistic and knowable, though by and large not wholly likable, characters; and for a week, familial alliances are made and broken enough for a 100-years' war against the brooding, pluvial backdrop. The book's ambition is perhaps greater than the ends it achievesalthough comfortably paced and plotted, the frenetic changes in narrator are often disorientingbut the very many fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) will be thrilled to see Haddon on shelves anew.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 1, 2012
    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.

  • The Washington Post "Absorbing. . . . Brilliant. . . . Haddon wends a careful path in this novel between the effervescent comedy of quirky families and the bitter tragedy of dysfunctional ones."
  • USA Today "Haddon delivers a story of remarkable complexity, exploring the rich interior lives of his characters. . . . Impressive."
  • O, the Oprah Magazine "Particularly fresh and true."
  • The Seattle Times "A chaotic but truthful portrait of what family means in this narcissistic age: less a cohesive whole than a group of individuals bumping against each other with their own needs, disappointments and . . . victories."
  • People Magazine "In this absorbing, Virginia Woolf-esque novel . . . an extended family gathers for a week in the English countryside. Perfect (or not) for that holiday with the in-laws."
  • Entertainment Weekly "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."
  • The Plain Dealer "The language of [The Red House] is wonderful--particular, vivid, attentive."
  • The Columbus Dispatch "Each of the characters acts as a splintered bit of mirror for the others, so that the reader sees them all from multiple perspectives. . . . Satisfying and believable. . . . Haddon writes with a gentle, compassionate sense of irony."
  • The New York Times "Haddon delights in winkling . . . social misfits out of their natural habitats and thrusting them into very English comedies of discombobulation and befuddlement."
  • The Spectator (London) "[Haddon] writes like a dream. Never showy, but often lyrically descriptive, he takes the reader with him to the core of this crazy family. . . . He has a true understanding of the human heart."
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