Slade House by David Mitchell
Narrator: Thomas Judd, Tania Rodrigues
Published by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group on October 27, 2015
Length: 6 hrs 54 mins
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Keep your eyes peeled for a small black iron door.
Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents — an odd brother and sister — extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late...
Spanning five decades, from the last days of the 1970s to the present, leaping genres, and barreling toward an astonishing conclusion, this intricately woven novel will pull you into a reality-warping new vision of the haunted house story—as only David Mitchell could imagine it.
Maybe I should have read The Bone Clocks first. Maybe I just don’t get what makes people love David Mitchell. (Do people love David Mitchell?) Maybe it’s just not my typical genre?
I read Slade House for the RIP XII Group Read. I don’t know if I expected it to be spookier or more interesting or what. It was fine, but when I wasn’t listening to it, I didn’t think about it. I didn’t feel the need to share bits of it with anyone or tell my daughter she needs to read it – she’s a horror fan.
Slade House is a type of haunted house story. Basically, every 9 years a victim is lured into the house. Each time we get to know the victim; they each have a distinct personality, their own quirks, tragedies, or fears that make them relatable. We get some standard spooky house fare, portraits, creeky stairs, mysterious women looking out the windows, warning disembodied voices. But once they eat or drink something they are good and trapped and the Grayer Twins eat their souls. The Grayers are psychic adepts who are feeding their own immortality with other’s souls. There’s a complete system of how they do it involving a lacuna in the attic, a space where time stands still and an orison which is some kind of reality bubble that lets the twins seperate their victims’ souls from their bodies.
I listened to the audio version and the narrators were wonderful. They kept me involved in the story and I think the set-up with basically five different stories forming the novel kept me interested too, just to see who the twins got next. And wondering if there really were weapons in the cracks.
Discussion questions posted at Estella’s Revenge:
1. Slade House is broken up into five parts and is narrated by five characters. Which one did you like best and why? I think my favorite part was the section narrated by Sally. The world the Grayers create for this version of Slade House, with its college Halloween party, is the most fully formed. And I liked Sally and felt bad for her. She just wanted to be loved and to fit in. Also, I love how she comes back in a later section. She was stronger than any one would have given her credit for.
2. In my opinion, this is not a traditional”scary” book. Each new guest in the house reveals more about Slade House and the Grayer twins. Did you find any of it unsettling? I didn’t think it was particularly scary either. The first section with the little boy had some unsettling parts, but once the rhythm of Slade House was established, it became a bit predictable.
3. This quote, discuss: “Grief is an amputation, but hope is incurable hemophilia: you bleed and bleed and bleed.” You grieve when you lose someone, but you no the loss is final. When there’s still hope that the person will be found, you never can get closure. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it referred to exactly in that way, but it feels familiar.
4. Norah and Jonah…sympathetic or nah? Not really. I don’t feel like we really got a chance to know them as people.
5. We didn’t learn much about what Norah and Jonah do between each nine–year cycle, but we do know that they have a lot of freedom and many resources at their disposal. What would you do with a gifted existence like this one? Travel. Learn new skills.
6. The ending. What did you think? I actually liked the ending. A bit melodramatic, but that fit.
It is fun enough and for a semi-spooky October read it worked. I did like the ending, the last little bit that makes you wonder where the story will go next.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: