BookBrowse Reviews Slade House by David Mitchell

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Slade House

by David Mitchell

Slade House by David Mitchell X
Slade House by David Mitchell
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2016, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kendra Wright-Winchester
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This ghost story, that David Mitchell started on Twitter, is his most accessible novel yet.

If you've ever wondered what David Mitchell is all about but have never had time to read one of his hefty tomes, the slimmer Slade House delivers an intense yet fully authentic Mitchell experience. After writing a Twitter short story, "The Right Sort," in 280 tweets during the summer of 2014, the author realized that he had the beginnings of a book. Adding to that original, Slade House is a single novel narrated from five different viewpoints.

Mitchell's The Bone Clocks, which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, is dark and fantasy-driven — set in a world where reincarnation is routine and evil beings consume others' souls to remain immortal. Slade House continues building on this mythology, deepening the complex rules of Mitchell's universe. Here, regular human beings can be born psychic and many different types of souls — and soul-eaters — exist. (You don't have to have read The Bone Clocks to appreciate Slade House — the new novel holds its own ground).

Fundamentally, Mitchell's new novel is a ghost story centered on the mysterious eponymous house told through five characters' perspectives. Magically appearing at the end of Slade alley every nine years, it calls particular individuals to peer over its garden walls and tempts them in. Two mysterious siblings, who control the house and choose who it beckons, are rumored to live in Slade House, but no one in town remembers seeing them.

The novel's first section, "The Right Sort," begins with an English boy, Nathan, visiting a woman named Lady Grey, the current resident of Slade House. Nathan takes some of his mother's Valium pills before he reaches the house, and assumes his high must explain why Lady Grey and her young companion Jonah seem so strange. Once inside the house's garden walls, Nathan sees visions more intense than his drug-induced trip can explain. But it's already too late and he is trapped.

Each successive section leads us chronologically through the decades and covers a new appearance of Slade House. A policeman, a college student, and a journalist are among those who contribute new clues, revealing the history of this sinister location and its inhabitants. Each character narrates the story in first person; the voices don't overlap, ensuring that each possesses a distinct personality. Mitchell's descriptions thrill the imagination, pulling you into Slade House along with its visitors: "They're chanting too, a chant in a language I don't know, and something appears above the candle-flame, a bit above eye-level: a bruise in the air, a glowing lump, lit reddish from inside, beating like a heart, big as a brain. Worms or roots or veins come out of it. Some grow towards the twins, and several come my way." You won't be able to leave.

Readers who love Mitchell's genre-bending writing style won't be disappointed — he remains a master at his craft. But these same readers might find that narrators in Slade House sound similar to those in other novels. And though this book expands on Mitchell's alternative reality universe, characters clumsily, and sometimes too obviously, explain how the plot's fantastical elements work.

Despite a few issues, Slade House captures your attention from the start. As each narrator gets sucked in, you want to scream: "Get out! Don't go in there!" But the victims refuse to listen, going down the alley, through the small garden door, and into Slade House.

Prepare yourself for an intense and engrossing adventure.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in November 2015, and has been updated for the July 2016 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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