Just Another Book Club- March Book

Please leave your comments below or within the appropriate post on my Facebook page. Please feel free to peruse other people’s comments and respond to them.

***Please be aware this is a book club discussion, so there is the possibility that my review or the comments left by others will contain spoilers***

Slade House

by

David Mitchell

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Synopsis

Slade House is set between 1979 and 2015. There are five sections of the book and each section is set in a different time period. The location of each section always remains the same. As you may have already guessed, it is always set at the spooky Slade House. The book details the mysterious circumstances that a variety of characters are drawn towards Slade House.

My Review

I should probably be honest with you and provide a disclaimer that, I am a huge David Mitchell fan. From reading Cloud Atlas to number9dream to the Bone Clocks. I’ve adored everything of his that I’ve read. Slade House is no exception.

Slade House some how manages to be hilarious, thrilling, haunting, historical and clever all at the same time. The first section (The Right Sort) surrounding young Nathan and his mum is particularly witty and had me laughing out loud. A fine example of Mitchell’s humour in this book would be the line: “he was handsome in a sort of gay model Hitler Youth way”. I’m going to remember that line, so that I can refer to someone as that one day (I might be mindful of my audience though).

This book mainly leaves me reeling. Reeling that someone can be so talented and so clever and have such a vivid imagination to write such a book. As I’ve mentioned before, I generally don’t like fantasy books, but for me Mitchell is the right side of fantasy for me.  It’s the backbone of this story, but it doesn’t dominate so much that it is the whole entire book.

Each section has it’s merits, but I particularly enjoyed the first section and the You Dark Horse You section with journalist Sally Timms. That section left me astonished and had me rereading it as soon as I’d finished it.

Most of the time you liked the main character in most of the sections and had a lot of sympathy for them (even before they learn their fate). Detective Gordon Edmonds from the The Shining Armour section, is probably the least likeable character, but you still somehow feel sorry for him. Inevitably, it’s the characters that continue through each section, siblings Norah and Jonah Grayer, that you despise the most and root for their demise throughout the book.

In conclusion, if you’re a fan of David Mitchell (and in particular The Bone Clocks), you will not be disappointed. It is a short read, that will keep you gripped and interested until  it’s harrowing conclusion. Think Stranger Things mixed with a little bit of Black Mirror.

Questions to Consider

1. Slade House is broken up into five parts and is narrated by five different characters, all in the first person. Which of their voices were you most drawn to and why?

2. Despite their differences, the narrators are all “engifted” and therefore targets of the Grayer twins. What do you think “engifted” means? What might qualify someone as “engifted”?

3. Did you notice any recurring patterns in the storytelling across all five parts?

4. With each new “guest” you learn more and more about Slade House and the Grayer twins. What about their abilities and story was most unsettling to you?

5. On page 146, Freya Timms thinks “Grief is an amputation, but hope is incurable hemophilia: you bleed and bleed and bleed.” Do you agree? In what way is this true for characters in the novel?

6. On page 175, Fred Pink counters Freya’s argument for why immortality wouldn’t be kept a secret. What does Fred’s explanation say about human nature? Do you agree?

7. Throughout his life, many people dismiss Fred and his beliefs and research. What might his experiences say about the way society treats those who are labeled as mentally ill?

8. Norah and Jonah’s history is extraordinary, but also marked by loss. Did you ever find them sympathetic? When and why?

9. You don’t learn much about what Norah and Jonah do in–between each nine–year cycle, but we do know that they have a great degree of freedom and many resources at their disposal. Would you be tempted by their nomadic but gifted existence?

10. Were you surprised by Norah’s actions at the end of the novel?

11. What’s the most frightening book you’ve ever read, and what is the most spine–chilling movie you’ve seen? Are there differences between literary fear and cinematic fear?

April’s book is Animal by Sara Pascoe. I’ll be starting the conversation for this on Tuesday 1st May.

A list of all the books we’ll be reading for the first half of 2018 can be found here

I’ve finally sorted out my Goodreads page, so as a few people have asked, you can view it here

4 comments

  1. angelanoelauthor · 22 Days Ago

    Hi! Wow. I’m excited to discuss this one.
    First, I think the imagination that dreams this up is supersized. Mitchell manages to make a coherent world with its own rules in a fairly short novel. I liked some of the phrasing very much–again my favorite “whatevertjhebollocks” is a phrase I used about ten times on vacation just for the heck of it.
    I’m intrigued by the idea of immortality. Of course, death is the greatest plague of life. It is also the thing that gives life meaning. Without it, we have no sense of purpose. We would become, as the Grayer’s did, aimless seekers immune to morals and values except those they’ve created for themselves. I found it interesting that Jonah says, “we’re not sadists.” And yet, each time a “guest” arrives in their lair they make it a point to tell the individual they were on their way towards death, no longer breathing and not able to do anything about it. Clearly, they are sadists.
    This was clear in each of their little plays. They didn’t just want to ensure their guests, they wanted to humiliate them. They made Nathan feel he could relate to another little boy, the inspector to feel as if he’d cracked a major case and could potentially become the hero in his own mind that he’d always longed to be, and of course, Sally. (More on that in a minute)

    I thought the discussion at the end of how the Grayers’ saw immortality as a precious gift to preserve and the professor saw it as a “sentence.” I’d be more likely to see it as she did. If we had the option to live forever, given the current way we treat each other and the earth, we’d both run out of resources and see massive suicides. We cannot live without meaning. If we have no constraints and endless possibilities we’d be depressed at an epic scale. The paradox of choice has been proven by psychologists. Where we have two or three options, we pick and find ourselves happy with our choices. If we have dozens of options, we fall into a mental trap where we can’t ever be satisfied with the choice we make because we always wonder about the myriad of alternatives. If we had endless options of how to live a lifetime for forever, that’s the paradox of choice on steroids. Curious on other’s thoughts on this for sure.

    Here’s my criticism: Sally’s story gave me heartburn. I hated that the overweight girl, starved for love and made to wear a piggy mask was continually berated by the twins. Yes, she got revenge of a sort. But, the trope of an overweight girl desperate to be loved by a boy really annoyed the pants off me. As creative as Mitchell is, I really hate that he played on that stereotype in an otherwise engaging yarn. Frankly, I’m sick of the insecure-overweight-girl story. We can do better. All I could think about as I read that part was: yuckity, yuck yuck. Did anyone else react strongly here?

    Thank you, as always for your excellent book club!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebeasley · 20 Days Ago

      Wow, thank you so much for your considered thoughts Angela. I just hadn’t thought that about the Sally story thoroughly- horrifically entitled “oink Oink” (I thinking my review I mentioned Sally’s name when in fact I meant her sister Freya and her story). I absolutely get what you mean and it is a shame. Maybe David Mitchell was trying to show up the people that surrounded her, but you’re right it is a tired storyline.

      This book does very succinctly demonstrate that without death our life would have no meaning. And the ill-effects of a never-ending life are clearly illustrated through the Grayers.

      I find your point how having too many choices leaves people feeling depressed and constantly wondering “what if” really interesting. It’s not good for us and I feel is part of the reason that we are seeing a rise of depression in modern society. We all have too much choice with things and too much is disposable.

      Great thoughts as always, Angela. Also, I am so very happy to hear you’re using the phrase “whateverthebollox” on a regular basis. I’m glad that British culture is having a positive influence on you haha x

      Liked by 1 person

      • angelanoelauthor · 20 Days Ago

        You make a great point– I do think the rise of depression does have to do with the paradox of choice. We just can’t seem to be satisfied.
        Such a strange phenomenon because it seems counterintuitive. I see evidence of this in things as simple as menus that are too long. Too many options and I can’t help but wish I’d ordered something else, but give me four entrees to choose from and I’ll pick my favorite of the four and be happy! Just fascinating.
        I told another friend about my new favorite phrase! 🙂 We’re starting a British revolution over here.

        Like

  2. middleagedwarrior · 21 Days Ago

    This sounds great – I’m going to grab a copy and have a look

    Like

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