‘Slade House’ by David Mitchell is a dark fiction written as a companion to his book ‘The Bone Clocks’. I should say that when I was given this book to read, I had no idea that it was a companion book, but upon doing further research, I learned it is written in very much the same style and can be read as a standalone novel. Yet, I recommend before reading Slade House, you should read ‘The Bone Clocks’, to get more out of this book.
Without further ado, here is my spoiler-free review of ‘Slade House’!
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A Short Summary
Like The Bone Clocks, Slade House is a book with several parts separated by a period. The story goes that people visit Slade House, but what happens there remains a terrifying mystery.
The story remains a mystery until the final parts. Those who have read The Bone Clocks will have a better understanding of what is happening. By the same token, I’m sure Slade House will give you the same knowledge when approaching The Bone Clocks.
However, what matters in Slade House is the dark nature of the story. From a creepy house to its creepy inhabitants. Right from the beginning, you are given that atmosphere of dread, which certainly helps make the story a lot more impactful with each part.
Each part has a new character, which adds to the variety of each short story while maintaining that key concept established in the first story. With that said, I will talk about the characters in the first story and how they are presented.
The first protagonist you are presented with is Nathan Bishop. He and his mother are visiting Slade House at the invitation of Lady Grayer. Nathan is a young boy, scarred by a traumatic past and numbed by medication, but still has a childish look on life, albeit a little desensitised.
Next, we have Lady Norah Grayer, the owner of Slade House. She is holding a gathering of classical music inclined individuals, Nathan’s mother fitting the bill. While posh, she plays the hostess rather well.
Finally, we have Jonah Grayer, a boy around Nathan’s age, although certainly smarter than his age implies. Jonah is rebellious but has the same childish nature as Nathan.
Now, these three characters play a major role at the beginning of the story, kicking off the plot and setting the concept that is shown in each part. Any more information I provide will only spoil the story, yet should be enough to get you interested.
The Writing Style
Right from the first page to the last, David Mitchell uses dark imagery to set the tone of each scene, the personality of each character and the atmosphere of Slade House.
Yet, it is the writing style that matches the quirky nature of the characters and the story. It gives everything a darker edge while allowing for a break here and there for some dark comedy. It’s also a style that adds to the tension, especially when the concept of the story becomes clearer.
As the story plays out, you feel this tension as you know where the stress points are. Mitchell’s writing style is also a bit higher paced, making for a quicker read, but unfortunately is broken up by lengthy exposition here and there.
With that said, it’s now time for my thoughts on Slade House.
The book is relatively short, yet I found myself losing most of my interest after the second part. It should be said there is a pattern to the story and while it develops over each part, I found that how it was done didn’t work.
There are five parts, each somewhat equal in length. The changing of characters makes it almost impossible to form an attachment with each new character, so after the second part, I stopped trying. Which, in the end, cost the last parts heavily as the story really develops in those pages.
Another unfortunate aspect is that dark comedy doesn’t work for me. Or at least, not this brand of dark comedy. What humour there was in the book either came off as forced or simply didn’t strike the right chord. With that element of the story lost on me, I relied on the major element of fear.
Yet, once more, this dwindled with each part. While especially prevalent in the first part, with each repetition in the pattern the anxiety faded, as well as the willing suspension of disbelief. By the end of the story, it felt more like a young adult adventure with no characters to care about, not even the antagonists.
Before I reached the halfway point in the novel, I no longer cared about the plot, the characters and whether the antagonist won or lost. I simply was interested in how it all made sense, but that too faded when this explanation was presented through lengthy, unsatisfying exposition.
Personally, I feel that if I read The Bone Clocks, I might feel better about Slade House, but only slightly. The structure of the story was ultimately disappointing, especially since the first chapter had me ready for something a lot more thriller-ish. I can’t help but see the book as having had the potential for something greater, but was ultimately spoiled.
Once more, these are my personal opinions. I don’t want to paint a negative picture of any book I read. If I find a book is truly bad, I don’t write a review on it.
Slade House has a decent writer backing it, an interesting concept, but it failed to keep me invested. I feel that Slade House would be a pleasant read if you are interested in a quirky atmosphere coupled with some grim characters.
With that said, if you have read The Bone Clocks or are still interested in such a story, then I can recommend Slade House.
I hope you enjoyed this review and as always,
Good day, goodnight and happy reading!
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