Friday, December 11, 2015

Curious Incident Meets Neverwhere: David Mitchell's Slade House

No one can accuse David Mitchell of writing the same thing over and over. After reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet  and then Cloud Atlas, I couldn't imagine how one writer could accomplish two such distinct but intricate novels.

When I started Slade House, with the introduction of the first character, I felt as if I were back in the world of The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time by Mark Haddon, particularly since the first protagonist (or victim) introduced was a young boy obviously somewhere on the Asberger's spectrum. Then -- just like that, the book shifted to another character, and another. Suddenly, I felt like I was reading something by Neil Gaiman--Neverwhere or Anansi Boys.

Whoever this David Mitchell might be, he had me hooked in this fantasy tale of events that occur at Slade House every nine years as twin brother and sister Nora and Jonah bend reality and lure in individuals to prolong their lives.

Of the visitors to the unusual estate which improbably takes up huge space, though literally appearing between two city blocks, some are amusing, some annoying, and some quite sympathetic. Of them all, Sally Timms, visiting the house on Halloween night with her Paranormal Club from University, is the most sympathetic. I kept wanting to scream warnings.

And since the world created within the walls of Slade House doesn't play by the rules, the characters who find themselves there certainly have the odds against them.

Once I finished the book, I did a little reading about the other book by Mitchell I haven't read yet, The Bone Clocks, and I discover there are connections between the two works, particularly the 2015 visitor Marinus, a "horologist." Suddenly, I remembered running across the phrase "bone clocks" in the tale. In fact, the grandfather clock earned mention in each section of the tale.

Now I wonder if Mitchell will stay in this world awhile or if he's ready to move on to a completely different time and place.

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