Sunday, April 10, 2016
Slade House by David Mitchell
Slade House by David Mitchell is a fantastic work of horror set between the 1970s and the present. Although I've never read The Bone Clocks (the only other Mitchell book I've read is Black Swan Green), Slade House is meant to be a companion novel, and Guardian reviewer Liz Jensen writes, "Think The Bone Clocks’s naughty little sister in a fright wig, brandishing a sparkler, yelling 'Boo!'" I read Slade House a couple of months ago, but only thought to write about it now. Last night I was reading Kenneth Oppel's new middle grade novel, The Nest, a gothic horror story, and it reminded me so much of Slade House. I remember thinking that Slade House read a lot like YA, and then it turned out that a middle grade novel jogged my memory of it.
Mitchell's latest work is a ghost story, one set in the gothic Slade House, an aging mansion that only appears once every nine years. Interconnected stories take place in 1979, 1988, 1997, 2006, and 2015, and focus on characters such as a young boy, a police officer, a female college student, and a reporter. Slade House lures in a new victim through its small iron door that branches off of Slade Alley. It's only discoverable when it needs to be, and when its time for someone new to come inside. Two ghosts, twin siblings, orchestrate elaborate fantasies inside Slade House, choosing a narrative that is most likely to draw in the person they are looking for. The stories offer the reader a variation on a theme, and while the first story seemed very Neil Gaiman-esque, the tone changes with each nine-year cycle.
While I always associate October with horror - and it's probably when I read most of the horror novels I stock up - Slade House is the kind of book to read on a summer night, when you're sunburned and tired and mosquito-bitten, and it's dark outside later and later. It's also often a very funny novel, taking comedic turns and engaging with references, a combination that makes the novel extremely readable.