Tuesday, July 17, 2012

{read: family vacations} The Red House by Mark Haddon

I had a hard time keeping the eight characters straight in this story about two estranged families who go on vacation in Wales. The book is divided into chapters by days of the week, and each chapter contains sections told in the third person about each of the characters. The POV switches back and forth between characters, and I had to keep stopping to think who this person was and how they were connected to the other people so I could keep the relationships straight. While I've seen the storytelling lauded as "dazzlingly inventive," to me it was just a tiny bit confusing.

A quick word about the plot: Richard has invited his sister, Angela, and her family for a week in Wales following their mother's funeral. Angela accepts because her husband is out of work and this is the only way they can afford a vacation. They have three children, and they join Richard with his new wife, Louisa, and her daughter. As you might expect, packing eight people (including three teenagers) into a house, accompanied by all their personal baggage and neuroses, causes conflicts to ensue.

While I did have to concentrate on the characters, I realized about halfway through the book that I was enjoying it in a held-at-a-distance sort of way. I couldn't get emotionally involved with any of the characters, but it was amusing to watch them spin and snort and generally get tangled up in their own lives with no clue what they really wanted or how to get it. Perhaps this is what Mark Haddon intended.

The Red House by Mark Haddon (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012)
My rating: 3 stars

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