SPOOKY SUNDAY: Slade House by David Mitchell

Halloween is probably my favourite seasonal holiday and this year I thought I’d celebrate with some spooky reads. I’m hoping to get one of these up each Sunday but we’ll see how it goes.

Slade House is a book that can best be described as a science fiction ghost story. It’s set over a period of thirty-six years and follows the mysterious events surrounding the titular house and those who visit it through a series of interconnected short stories. Each of the stories features a different narrator and time period while following the same basic premise of the protagonist being drawn into Slade House then charting their experiences inside.

SPOILER WARNING: The following review contains minor spoilers for the plot of Slade House

I found the structure of this book to be an interesting one with the time jumps allowing Mitchell to slowly reveal the truth behind the house and its inhabitants while building suspense over what would happen to each new visitor. However, this structure also meant that many of the characters felt one dimensional due to the short space of time which was spent with them. The characters particularly in the first three stories felt like little more than archetypes: geeky teenage boy, politically incorrect cop and insecure college girl. However while this doesn’t make for complex characters it does allow the reader to quickly establish who each narrator is and become immersed in their world. Mitchell also manages to make each of the stories feel like it has a distinctive voice in addition to building on those that came before it.

My least favourite of the three was probably “The Right Sort”, the opening story, which may have been due to it having to do the heavy lifting of introducing the elements which reoccur in all the stories. Still, as I continued with the book I appreciated the foundation that it built and enjoyed the continued call backs. I most enjoyed “You Dark Horse You”, the penultimate story which does most of the work in resolving the mystery. In retrospect I can see this story was largely an info dump setting up for the final section, however, I found the characters in this piece to be the best developed in the book and enjoyed both of their voices.

While Slade House has an interesting concept and well-built mystery, ultimately I found it hard to connect with. It’s the kind of book you know intellectually is good but just don’t feel that it is. I enjoyed a lot of the imagery within the book as well as many of the elements of its formula for the stories such as the ascent up the portrait line staircase. Despite this though, I felt that it lacked depth. Still at only 233 pages it’s decent for a quick read if you’re a fan of the genre or looking for something a little bit different.

2/5 stars

Featured Image: Detail from the cover of Slade House © Max-o-matic

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