It started as a thing on the internet. Most stories start that way these days. Goodness, have I aged myself terribly? Back in my day, we didn’t have the internet and if you were lucky enough to have it, the box would scream as you logged on to MSN Message at 2am. It was much harder to talk to your friends and stare at cats all day without your parents finding out. Unlike all these YouTuber books and bad taxidermy books, this book started on Twitter. David Mitchell of Cloud Atlas confusion (I will try again, honest!) published a story on Twitter when he joined in 2014. ‘Slade House’ is the product of that.
If you go past The Fox and Hounds Pub, you’ll find Slade Alley. If you go down Slade Alley, you’ll find a little black gate. That gate takes you to Slade House. Of course, the people you meet at Slade House depends on the year. A grand building like that has a rich history and will inevitably change hands. In this beautifully printed book, the reader visits Slade House every nine years. It’s been inhabited by musicians, students, and stunning widows. It’s been visited by the curious who never want to leave, until they find they can’t.
‘Atmospheric’ doesn’t quite do justice to the lure of this book. It’s haunting and lingers in your mind. It’s not without its problems. For me, I like to be shown rather than told, so one dark evening over drinks in the pub we hear the story of the Grayer twins. What’s a spooky tale without a set of twins? Their birth, life and travels are told to a reporter by a drunk with a theory but I would have liked to have experienced it myself. The twins are the mystery of the book as well as the house. You are left wanting more; people have differing opinions on if that is a good thing or a bad thing, it’s certainly a frustrating thing. Maybe that’s David Mitchell’s appeal. I felt that way after reading the first three chapters of Cloud Atlas (I will try again, honest!) I met characters I loved and knew I wouldn’t see them again until the end. He’s brilliantly cruel, just like his latest novel ‘Slade House’. You’ll think twice before entering the little black gate at the end of an alley way.