Thursday, October 22, 2015
The Red House
Mark Haddon's second book, A Spot of Bother, made it clear he was becoming a master of the excruciating family set-piece. The Red House confirms it. Family – "that slippery word, a star to every wandering bark, and everyone sailing under a different sky" – has become his speciality.
The novel opens impressionistically, introducing eight people speeding towards the same spot by train and car. Images rush past windows, glimpsed and gone. The destination is a self-catering holiday cottage near Hay-on-Wye, where there will be "Scrabble, a tatty box in some drawer, a pack of fifty-one playing cards, a pamphlet from a goat farm". And, of course, rain.
The week's holiday has been arranged by wealthy, middle-aged Richard, attempting to reconcile with his long-estranged sister Angela in the wake of their mother's death. As adult children of emotionally damaged parents, their shared past has left them with different impressions and sympathies, as well as a raft of baggage which has impacted on their own families.