A friend and I were recently discussing David Mitchell and just what a great career he has had. Her observation was that he was ‘a very male writer’, creative, logical and left of center. Although these characteristics are not only associated with male novelists, I could see what she meant. Many years ago, I read what is perhaps his most famous book, Cloud Atlas and loved it. It was so very different to the types of book that I, or perhaps indeed most of us, were reading at the time. He had written a novel so perfect that I was worried almost to read anything else of his. The funny thing was though and I know that this may make almost no sense at all, I also didn’t really try to read anything more until now. Enjoying Cloud Atlas, in the way I had, felt like a fluke. I felt as if I had chanced upon the one book of his that would be available to a reader such as myself.
I would estimate that I read that book nearly a decade ago and yet this summer one of my favorite books has been Slade House, quite simply because, yet again, it is so very different. It’s absurdly clever, well written and let’s face it, chilling. The Husband was made to read it too and has been left almost without words, not that he’s ever particularly loquacious on these matters. Like me, he loved it and at the same time was a little mystified by it. The elements that I hoped he could explain or discuss with me, had left us both bemused.
As with Cloud Atlas it’s difficult to compare it to other books I have read. I quite simply don’t read books like this, probably because nobody writes quite like David Mitchell and yet, I loved the idea. A small metal door appears in a wall in a dark alley in London once every nine years. The characters all have some reason for looking for it and are accordingly invited in, never to be seen again. Frankly, I don’t want to tell you anything more for fear of spoiling it for you, but you will find yourself rooting for every character, whilst desperately trying to understand what is going on. Only, you do understand, not well, but well enough.
Slade House is a short book and because of Mitchell’s beguiling style, a quick read. I know that really the length of a novel should be inconsequential if it’s any good, but for a reader such as myself, the complexity and ‘science’ that stood behind this novel made a shorter read more accessible. Will it be another ten years before I pick up a Mitchell novel again? Maybe, but like the Grayer twins of Slade House, there may be something I need.