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Slade House


Slade House

In the world David Mitchell created in his 2014 novel, THE BONE CLOCKS, the Horologists are waging a long battle against their enemies, the Anchorites, and ordinary people are often pulled into the violent fray. The Horologists are “atemporals” who are born again and again into new bodies but with the memories that drive them forward and with particular skills and knowledge that they hope will help them defeat the soul-eating Anchorites determined to gain immortality at any cost. In SLADE HOUSE, Mitchell revisits the Horologists and Anchorites but narrows his focus to the story of two twins, bent on immortality, and the victims they curate.

The Slade House is the metaphysically hidden lair of Norah and Jonah Grayer. It appears every nine years to those the Grayers select and lure there --- those whose souls they plan to feast on to keep themselves alive. In 1979, they invite a boy named Nathan along with his mother for an afternoon of music. Acting as an aristocratic mother and son, Norah and Jonah tease Nathan with the promise of friendship for himself and happiness for his mother before they reveal their true selves and let him get just a glimpse of the “lacuna” that is Slade House before consuming his soul. This first section of the novel is highly charged and increasingly surreal as Nathan's already unique perception of reality is challenged by the slipping and shifting scene that the Grayers have created for him. He is almost warned of the danger, but is unable to understand the message he is being sent and instead runs toward his terrible fate.

"...a smooth and strange novel, a riveting and quite literary version of the haunted house tale."

In 1988, a tough cop --- aging, egocentric and lonely --- is summoned by the twins to investigate the disappearance of Nathan and his mother. Detective Inspector Edmonds, like Nathan, is romanced by a new friendship. In this charade, Norah plays an attractive widow who easily seduces Edmonds. As with Nathan, Edmonds is merely food for the Grayers and matters not at all to them emotionally. And so, every nine years, Slade House brings in a new guest, often connected to past guests, for the twins. But every nine years, the ghost of the most recent guest is better able to warn the next of what is in store. The twins become confident over the years, tormenting their guests with more creative and heartbreaking pretends, until, in the final section of the book, taking place in 2015, they confront a soul who may have the power to destroy them.

Mitchell uses first person narration in each of the novel’s sections to share the viewpoint of a new guest to the house. Each voice is distinct, and the pace and tone vary as well, yet each is believable and interesting. The book teeters dangerously close to silly in a passage or two but remains, for the most part, a pretty great read. With each section, Mitchell not only introduces a new guest to Slade House but also reveals more about the Grayers themselves. Much of their background and desires is illuminated by the finale, though Mitchell does seem to leave room for himself to explore the Horologists and Anchorites in future books.

Having read THE BONE CLOCKS may give readers a bit of background on these figures and the tensions between them, but SLADE HOUSE stands alone well as a creepy story combining gothic themes and settings with contemporary English characters, occult mysteries, lush descriptions and nightmarish scenarios. It is a smooth and strange novel, a riveting and quite literary version of the haunted house tale.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on October 29, 2015

Slade House
by David Mitchell

  • Publication Date: June 28, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Paranormal, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0812988078
  • ISBN-13: 9780812988079