The Red House by Mark Haddon

86%

34 Critic Reviews

It’s a testament to Haddon’s smooth handling of the melodrama that the awkward parting of the two families feels strangely satisfying.
-Toronto Star

Synopsis

An dazzlingly inventive novel about modern family, from the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

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.

The Red House is a literary tour-de-force that illuminates the puzzle of family in a profoundly empathetic manner -- a novel sure to entrance the millions of readers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
 

About Mark Haddon

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MARK HADDON is an author, illustrator and screenwriter who has written fifteen books for children and won two BAFTAs. His bestselling novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time was published in 2003. It won seventeen literary prizes, including the Whitbread Award. Mark Haddon lives in Oxford. MICHAEL ROSEN was born in 1946 in North London. One of the best-known figures in the children's book world, he is renowned for his work as a poet, performer, broadcaster and scriptwriter. As an author and by selecting other writers' works for anthologies he has been involved with over 140 books. ZADIE SMITH was born in London. Her novels include White Teeth, The Autograph Man and On Beauty. CARMEN CALLIL was born and educated in Melbourne, Australia and came to the UK in 1960. She is the author (with Colm Toibin) of The Modern Library: The 200 Best Novels in English Since 1950. TIM PARKS currently lives in Italy and is the author of novels, non-fiction and essays. BLAKE MORRISON is the author of two bestselling memoirs and is also a poet, critic, journalist and librettist.
 
Published June 12, 2012 by Vintage. 273 pages
Genres: Other, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Red House
All: 34 | Positive: 30 | Negative: 4

Kirkus

Excellent
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on May 01 2012

A familiar premise inspires surprising and deeply moving results, fulfilling the British novelist’s considerable promise.

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NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Tom Shone on Jul 06 2012

...reads as if it were written to silence those critics who damn Haddon with the faint praise of being too “readable.” Mission accomplished.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Carol Birch on May 09 2012

...is a closely observed domestic drama that gives the impression of being a random slice-of-life, but in which every character is coming to terms with something or experiencing a revelation.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Kate Kellaway on May 06 2012

This hugely enjoyable, sympathetic novel would make perfect reading for those setting out on holiday in Britain – and especially anyone heading for Wales.

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NPR

Below average
Reviewed by Heller McAlpin on Jun 13 2012

The Red House, the inability of the characters to duplicate Haddon's empathic feat — to really see or feel for others — leads to one disconnected conversation after another, the literary equivalent of dropped cellphone calls.

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Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by KRISTIN WILSON on Nov 05 2012

As the story plays out, the reader can only wonder if this vacation is going to bring about new familial relationships or if it is tearing the family members apart...family drama that examines relationships through interactions and inner thoughts.

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Financial Times

Below average
Reviewed by Lionel Shriver on May 05 2012

Yet in the main this novel fails to meet its flap copy’s promise to explore “the extraordinariness of the ordinary” and instead merely explores the ordinariness of the ordinary.

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Globe and Mail

Excellent
Reviewed by ARITHA VAN HERK on Jul 13 2012

Mark Haddon’s writing demonstrates eerie percipience about the intricate web of knots that net families together...The Red House draws the reader into the tensions and apprehensions of one such family

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Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by Nathan Whitlock on Jun 23 2012

It’s a testament to Haddon’s smooth handling of the melodrama that the awkward parting of the two families feels strangely satisfying.

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Toronto Star

Excellent
Reviewed by Nathan Whitlock on Jun 23 2012

By the end of the book, some characters appear to be on the verge of breaking through to something better, while others seem worse off than ever. It’s a testament to Haddon’s smooth handling of the melodrama...

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AV Club

Below average
Reviewed by Todd VanDerWerff on Jul 02 2012

What should be a moving story of a long-estranged family coming to a kind of understanding is hurt by Haddon’s attempts to tell the story of a vacation week from the perspectives of all eight vacationers.

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National Post arts

Excellent
Reviewed by Emily Donaldson on Jul 06 2012

The novel’s pleasure, there in spades, lies in Haddon’s caustic wit, his pitch-perfect nailing of each of his characters, and in his absurdly concise descriptions of the most banal activities...

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Entertainment Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by Rob Brunner on Jun 13 2012

The story unfolds from all eight characters' points of view...letting Haddon dig convincingly into all of the failures, worries, and weaknesses that they can't leave behind during this pause in their lives.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Ron Charles on Jun 19 2012

This is a story full of intimate confessions that at first relieve and then frighten.

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The Independent

Excellent
Reviewed by Amanda Craig on May 13 2012

The quality of the writing allows us to know this extended clan, who are on a week's holiday, better than they know each other.

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The Bookbag

Excellent
Reviewed by Sue Magee on Apr 24 2012

And what characters they are. I found them difficult to like, but for once it didn't matter.

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Dallas News

Excellent
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Jun 22 2012

Haddon is a skilled storyteller, and by the time you reach the end of his latest book, all the fragments come together, and no piece is missing.

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The Boston Globe

Excellent
Reviewed by Richard Eder on Jul 15 2012

The taste can be extraordinary. Haddon writes like a scalpel-wielding angel.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by Rachel Nolan on Jul 16 2012

...family dysfunction is the whole story. Haddon moves in and out of the minds of each of the family members, telling the story from eight perspectives, which mutes his gift for voice.

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Tulsa World

Excellent
Reviewed by James Watts on Jul 29 2012

But what the reader of "The Red House" will take away is an empathetic portrait of a group of people who discover that there is more to being a family than simply a shared name and strands of DNA.

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Chicago Sun Times

Excellent
Reviewed by DAN OCHWAT on Jul 05 2012

...nicely adds a glimpse into what haunts each character, what’s holding them back and preventing them from appreciating walks, conversations, meals and family.

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The Spectator

Excellent
Reviewed by Sophia Waugh on May 05 2012

The Red House shows that Haddon is much more than a one-hit wonder: he is a real novelist, and he is here to stay.

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Time Out Chicago

Below average
Reviewed by Josh Davis

Haddon is better than this...With The Red House, he’s shoved great writing into an average and predictable plotline that lacks a convincing gestalt.

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NY Daily News

Excellent
Reviewed by Sherryl Connelly on Jun 03 2012

Certainly “The Red House,” is conventional, but satisfyingly so. Haddon hasn’t much new to say about troubled families, but he certainly is a close observer.

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New Zealand Woman's Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by New Zealand Woman's Weekly on Jun 01 2012

In his latest novel, Mark Haddon perfectly captures both a sense of domesticity and the tensions between people brought together by family ties.

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The Nervous Breakdown

Excellent
Reviewed by EDRA ZIESK on Jun 20 2012

One of the strengths of the book is Haddon’s compassion. He doesn’t stand above and in judgment of his characters; he portrays them in all their failings with sympathy and understanding.

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Edmonton Journal

Excellent
Reviewed by ROBERT WIERSEMA on Jul 12 2012

It’s frustrating to read a novel as full of promise as The Red House...which collapses so resolutely under the weight of its own construction and pretensions.

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New Welsh Review

Excellent
Reviewed by Kat Dawes

If you’ve ever been forced to spend any extended period of time...with a load of people you have little in common with, you will identify with this book; it is thoughtful, unsettling and strangely satisfying.

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National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Emily Donaldson on Jul 06 2012

...Haddon puts them into play, releasing them like particles in a hadron (Haddon?!) collider, then stepping back to see what he has wrought. Over the course of the week the groups combine and break apart in various ways, often in pairs, each encounter producing its own chemical, and sometimes physical, reaction.

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Sarah Reads Too Much

Good
Reviewed by Sarah Reads Too Much on Jun 12 2012

...this is really one very thorough examination of a dysfunctional family. Each person is dealing with their own problems, unable to fully communicate with their family members.

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scott william foley

Good
Reviewed by Scott William Foley on Jul 22 2012

To conclude, The Red House did not recapture the lightning in a bottle that was...but it was a really interesting character study, particularly in regards to Angela, and executed an unusual technique that I felt only enhanced the overall story.

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So Misguided

Good
Reviewed by Monique on Jun 28 2012

Overall, the book was enjoyable but not my favourite Haddon novel, which still remains Curious Incident.

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Gory Bowes Taylor

Good
Reviewed by Karen Rutter on Aug 30 2012

Poignant and yet also enormously entertaining, Haddon weaves a tale of ordinary lives told with extra-ordinary care. I enjoyed this very much.

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The Neff Review

Good
Reviewed by LaVonne Neff on Jun 30 2012

It's not bad, for a dysfunctional-family novel, but I didn't breathlessly tell my friends about it.

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Reader Rating for The Red House
55%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 285 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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