The red house book club

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the red house book club

The Red House by Mark Haddon

I loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and A Spot of Bother, so I was very excited once I heard about this novel, and then became utterly disappointed with what a chore this one is to read. Its told in a stream of consciousness style when eight people get together -- an estranged brother and sister and their two families for a week of vacation after the brother and sisters mother died. The point of view shifts from one persons interior thoughts to the next from one paragraph to another, but often the switch occurs within a paragraph. Countless times throughout the book you have to re-read sections to figure out whose point of view it is, and a several times its impossible to guess. Often there are passages when we get excerpts of what someone is reading -- and you cant always be sure which character it is. While this may be interesting the first few times, it quickly becomes tedious. Then there are riffs like this one:

Marja, Helmand. The sniper far back enough from the window to stop sun flaring on the rifle sight. Crack and kickback. A marine stumbles under the weight of his red buttonhole. Dawn light on wile horses in the Kentii Mountains. Huddershfield, brown sugar bubbling in a tarnished spoon. Turtles drown in oil. The purr of binary, a trillion ones and zeroes. The swill of bonds and futures. Reckitt Benckiser, Smith and Nephew. Rifts and magma chambers. Eyjafjallajokull smoking like a witchs cauldron.

It goes on like this for many more lines -- Im not sure what its supposed to be -- descriptions of all thats going on in the world, while these 8 people try to make sense of their lives?

Late in the book, we just get a long list of every item in a novelty shop the characters visit. It was fun when Tim OBrien used that trick in The Things They Carried because each persons possessions revealed their personality, but Im not sure what knowing all the curios in this paritcular curio shop does for me or any of the characters.

Its too bad because the characters dilemmas -- the sister is going crazy over memories of her deformed stillborn baby, her ambition-less husband is having an affair, the brother is learning his wife has secrets and he has to be a better husband -- are all very interesting, not to mention the childrens various problems -- the most interesting of which is a teenage girl coming to a slow realization of her sexual orientation. There was enough tension and character development in the book to make it somewhat worthwhile, but you have to have a lot of patience for artsy, fartsy writerly technigues to get through it. (Some readers might like the experimentation, but I obviously am not one of them.)
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Published 07.02.2019

Red and Bad Book Club, Week 10: The House

The winners of the Red House Book Award, the only national book award voted for entirely by children, were announced this week. A Monster.
Mark Haddon

Book Clubs for Children

Four adults and four children, a single family and all of them strangers. Seven days of shared meals, log fires, card games and wet walks. But in the quiet and stillness of the valley, ghosts begin to rise up. The parents Richard thought he had. The parents Angela thought she had. Past and present lovers. Friends, enemies, victims, saviours.

Book clubs for children can be a wonderful way of fostering a lifelong love of reading and expanding their minds as well as providing a forum to build important skills such as public speaking, debate and viewing things from different perspectives. They are also a great opportunity for children to socialise and meet new friends. Running Book Clubs for Children In many respects, book clubs for children mirror those for adults. They can be started just as simply, by getting together a group of children who like to read — either by asking through friends or putting up posters at school, library, church or other community places that children frequent. Members As with adults, kids is a good number for a successful book club. In particular, it is well-known that boys will generally not read a story with a girl as the protagonist whereas girls do not have a problem reading stories about boys. Remember also that boys can often be slower and less adept than girls in terms of both literacy and verbal communication and this can affect book club discussions.

Sign up for our newsletters! What role does the Welsh landscape play in The Red House? How might this story be different if it portrayed an American family? Where would you set the story and what points of American culture would you add? To what extent, if at all, did you see your family or your own family vacations reflected in The Red House? What roles do death and absence play in the narrative?

This month our books editor Viv Groskop has picked out five great reads for the month. From the subtle, imitate and complicated portrait of life in Cornwall in A Perfectly Good Man , and the witty, farcical and addictive.
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ISBN Summary The set-up of Mark Haddon's brilliant new novel is simple: Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister Angela and her family to join his for a week at a vacation home in the English countryside. Richard has just re-married and inherited a willful stepdaughter in the process; Angela has a feckless husband and three children who sometimes seem alien to her. The stage is set for seven days of resentment and guilt, a staple of family gatherings the world over. But because of Haddon's extraordinary narrative technique, the stories of these eight people are anything but simple. Told through the alternating viewpoints of each character, The Red House becomes a symphony of long-held grudges, fading dreams and rising hopes, tightly-guarded secrets and illicit desires, all adding up to a portrait of contemporary family life that is bittersweet, comic, and deeply felt. As we come to know each character they become profoundly real to us. We understand them, even as we come to realize they will never fully understand each other, which is the tragicomedy of every family.

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