The Red House

Mark Haddon, Author
Mark Haddon. Doubleday, $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-385-53577-9
Reviewed on: 02/27/2012
Release date: 06/12/2012
Hardcover - 340 pages - 978-0-09-957016-5
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Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-09-957017-2
Open Ebook - 168 pages - 978-0-385-53585-4
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-385-67694-6
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Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-61587-547-4
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Hardcover - 272 pages - 978-0-224-09640-9
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Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) sets his sights on the modern social novel with a seriously dysfunctional family. Radiologist Richard, newly remarried to Louisa, who has something of a “footballer’s wife” about her, hosts his resentful sister Angela and her family at his vacation home in the English countryside for the week. Both Richard’s new wife, and her cold-blooded 16-year-old daughter, Melissa, arouse the attentions of Angela’s teenage children: son Alex, and daughter Daisy, whose sexual curiosity might lead her to trouble. Angela’s uninterested husband, Dominic; their youngest son, Benjy; and the lurking ghost of their stillborn child round out the family. But most of all there’s the universe of media—from books and iPods to DVDs and video games—that fortifies everyone’s private world; intrudes upon a week of misadventures, grudges, and unearthed secrets; and illuminates Haddon’s busy approach to fairly sedate material, a choice that unfortunately makes the payoffs seldom worth the pages of scattershot perspective. Characters are well-drawn (especially regarding the marital tensions lurking below facades of relative bliss), but what emerges is typical without being revelatory, familiar without becoming painfully human. The tiresomely quirky Haddon misses the epochal timbre that Jonathan Franzen hit with Freedom, and his constantly distracted novel is rarely more than a distraction itself. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander. (June 19)
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