A while back now the wonderful Nat K had a great idea to read all of David Mitchell's books in chronological order. Just the other day we finished "Slade House" and are up to his last novel "Utopia Avenue". We both loved Slade House, with it's eerie, haunted atmosphere and wonderful deliciously evil characters.
Here is a copy of Nat's review that will surely entice you to read this little gem if you have not already.
NAT K'S REVIEW OF "SLADE HOUSE"
Welcome to Slade House. Down a quiet, shaded alleyway. Far from the madding crowd. A grand manor, with old world charm. Sit in the garden and listen to the hum of insects. Admire the ”...roses, toothy sunflowers, spatters of poppies, clumps of foxgloves…there’s a rockery, a pond, bees grazing and butterflies. It’s beautiful. Feel the breeze on your skin, as the leaves of the ginkgo tree float gently to earth. Pick a damson plum. Mmmmm…lovely. Admire the red ivy climbing the walls ”...redder than red ivy normally is”, and pinch yourself that you have found such an oasis in the midst of the City.
If you’re feeling thirsty, or after a bite to eat, there’s the pub The Fox and Hounds down the road. Sure, it’s a bit faded, but it’s authentic.
You’ll be made to feel right at home by the lady of the manor. You’ll be in awe that someone living in such splendor is so humble. Everything is wonderful. It all sounds delightful. Except that Slade House was bombed to smithereens in the London Blitz of 1940…
”I forget what I’ve forgotten."
You realise that time seems to slip away. Is it day or is it night? Time is elastic. Something seems odd. You walk up the grand staircase and pass a grandfather clock that has no hands to display the time. Instead the face features the words:
”TIME IS, TIME WAS, TIME IS NOT.”
It doesn’t make sense. As you climb further, you see a gallery of portraits along the walls. Whose are they? You seem to recognize a few. Surely it can’t be…People who have been reported missing nine years ago…eighteen years ago…You come to the last portrait, and see your own face staring back at you.
If you enjoy a mind bending story, this is the one for you.
This book is seriously creepy. It sent chills down my spine more than once, yet I couldn’t help but delight at the cleverness of it, despite urging the guests visiting Slade House to RUN while there was still time.
Mitchell plays on our fears with finesse. He builds the eeriness of the story chapter by chapter. Each of the “guests” who arrive at Slade House have emotional turbulence going on in their lives, which makes them more susceptible. They are all looking for something. Friendship, sex, love. Or the truth of what happened to others who had gone missing. Each of them is the perfect foil, being more empathetic than most, to be the ideal candidate to feed the force that exists in Slade House.
”People are masks, with masks under those masks, and masks under those, and down you go..”
There are many cheeky little nods to characters and events from The Bone Clocks (as well as Cloud Atlas scattered here. I can’t help but think that Mitchell had a heap of fun writing this. Deciding which little breadcrumb to leave an ambiguous trail of. Peck peck peck.
* Vyvyan Ayrs, the temperamental composer that Robert Frobisher was obsequious to in Cloud Atlas is mentioned. Did you notice? Subtle. Clever. * Mitchell also mentions the Brighton Pier (from The Bone Clocks) where Dwight Silverwand was masquerading as a psychic, where young Aoife went missing for a morning, as her poor Dad Ed Brubeck was frantically trying to find her. * Crispin Hershey’s novel ”Desiccated Embryos” is given a nod. * Freya Timms is a journalist writing for Spyglass magazine, which Luisa Rey used to work for back in Cloud Atlas, also Ed Brubeck in The Bone Clocks. Not bad for a publication which was on its last legs. * And, of course, the ” moon-grey cat” made her appearance across the pages. Last seen many lifetimes ago in Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Love it.
There are others, and it's quite fascinating how he managed to fit so many cross references in 233 pages.
This book truly is ”Escher on a bender and Stephen King in a fever.” I’ll throw in those wonderful old episodes of “The Twilight Zone” for good measure.
Brilliant! What a book! Bravo Mr. Mitchell, you're way too smart!