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An Evening with Alastair Sawday

20th October, 2021, Steyning Cricket Club

Slade House

Slade House by David Mitchell

What a treat! A Mitchell-esque take on haunted-house Gothic Horror, to be published just before Hallowe’en!
‘Slade House’ inhabits the same universe as David Mitchell’s previous novel ‘The Bone Clocks’, but works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel for those of you yet to fall under the spell of his sublimely-crafted sentences and soul-sucking atemporal time-travellers. This slender novel centres around Slade House, a decaying mansion tucked away in a tatty North London suburb, and each of its 5 chapters features a different character. The house mysteriously appears once every 9 years, and at each ‘opening’, one carefully chosen visitor is let in, beginning with teenaged Nathan, who is invited in October 1976. Like ‘Hotel California’, this is one house you may enter, but never leave, and so we romp through a succession of vividly-imagined, wonderfully nuanced narrators, taking us from 1976 through to 2015, each of whom meets a deeply unpleasant end. Each decade is lovingly and nostalgically evoked with delightfully British detail – the beauty of Mitchell’s writing for me is in the way that, like Haruki Murakami, his stories are rooted in the humdrum modern world of Pritt-stick and Shredded-Wheat, yet spiral off into quantum alternate-realities.
‘Slade House’ becomes increasingly dark as the horror of its occupants, the sinister Grayer twins, is revealed, and the reader becomes ever-more desperate for a heroic survivor to emerge – I was gulping the novel down by the end, which I will not reveal, save to say Mitchell fans will applaud the re-appearance of Dr Marinus.
A hugely enjoyable Hallowe’en read, with tricks AND treats galore!