House of Leaves - Mark Z Danielewski
Now this book was hard work. I knew it would be before I even started, is dauntingly large! Overall, I have mixed reviews about it, but I am so glad I actually read it. The book constantly follows three narratives; The first of Will Navidson, a famous photographer who has made a film, The Navidson Record, about the bizarre house he lives in with his family, and the happenings, traumas, and deaths people suffer at the hands of the house. His narrative plays out through his film, which is being commented on my Zampano, the second narrator. The body of the book itself is Zampano's commentary on the The Navidson Record, which Zampano has written a very academic commentary about; heavily footnoted with countless references to other comments/writings on the The Navidson Record. The final narrative is from Johnny Truant, who is editing Zampano's writing and placing them in the order they are presented to us. The story goes that Truant found Zampano's writings on The Navidson Records in an unedited, uncollated form. Truant narrates through the book via the footnotes (often pages long at a time), where we follow his reaction to Zampano's notes, and in turn The Navidson Record, along with his own anecdotes from his life at the time of editing Zampano's notes. Wow, just from this description alone, you can see the complexity of this book. You actually get the hang of the narrative quickly, however it was the constant switching that began to irritate me. The aspect of the book which interested me the most was The Navidson Record, which has an incredible plot. The parts discussing what is happening within the film were real page turners. However, the constant interruptions from Truant's footnotes broke the flow, ultimately making it harder to read! I found myself skimming through pages and pages of academic jargon about various topics, wishing it would return to the plot of the film.
The layout of the book is another point worth mentioning. Pages upon pages just have one word, there are points where you have to turn the book every which way to read the text. I believe it is there to represent the happenings inside the house, which will make sense if you read the book (I don't want to spoil what happens in the house, also me writing it here would make it sound very unrealistic, where the book manages to present it as a very real and believable occurrence). For me, these pages came as a relief because I was finally getting through huge sections at considerable pace and felt like I was actually making progress. Despite the book being a slog to read, at no point did I want to give up. I definitely felt like I wanted to hurry up, but even the in pages and pages of academic references (which I did occasionally find interesting) I was still desperate to know how things would end.
Through the use of the academic tone, and the incredible amount of sources Danielewski has created, this book is incredibly realistic. At one point I had to google Will Navidson because I felt so lost as to how this has been created as fiction, despite the complete unrealistic plot of The Navidson Record, it all felt so incredible real, which is what makes it so creepy.
This was a really enjoyable read, and one I got through very quickly. The story follows Tessa, who suffered a traumatic event as a child which left her fighting for her life in a grave surrounded by dead girls. Now the killer is on death row, with limited time left, when Tessa becomes unsure the right man is behind bars. Its narrative switches between the past and present, which I always finds has a suspenseful effect as the reader gets to weave together how the events in the past could have effect on the character's future. The book is definitely suspenseful, but like so many thrillers I felt disappointed by the end. I often feel like they rush the ending in such an ungraceful way, like plonking the pieces of the puzzle together in just one chapter.
Someone commented on one of my vlogs saying this book would not be what I expected, and they were SO right! It has one hell of a twist, which comes pretty early on in the book too. The book mostly covers the functioning of families, through the viewpoint of one girl, Rosemary, and her experiences with her parents and siblings throughout her life. Similarly to Black Eyed Susans, this book switches from past and present as Rosemary recounts her life bringing us back to the present day. I really enjoyed it, it's a very interesting look at family life due to the unique relationship between the three siblings, which makes this story really charming and enjoyable.
It was a pleasant book to read, not a huge page turner but equally I found it easy to sit down for an hour or so and continuously read. With summer holidays coming up this would be a great one to read by the pool or on the beach!