06/11/2012 11:10 am ET

The Book We're Talking About This Week: 'The Red House' By Mark Haddon

"The Red House" by Mark Haddon
Doubleday, $25.95
Published on June 12, 2012

What is it about?

The novel tells the story of a family through alternating viewpoints. A rich doctor, Richard, invites his estranged sister, Angela, and her family to spend a week with his family at their English vacation home in the country. Of course, tension is high.

Why are we talking about it?

Haddon's first novel, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" was so good that we couldn't help but pick this one up as well.

Who wrote it?

Mark Haddon, the author of Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction award winner and international bestseller "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time." He also wrote New York Times bestseller "A Spot of Bother." In addition to this, he has written and illustrated award-winning children's books and television screenplays.

Who will read it?

Fans of Haddon's first novel, fans of dramatic family novels, such as Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections" and "Freedom."

What do the reviewers say?

The Guardian: "Death has hovered over Haddon's work from the start, but it makes its presence felt a little more with each book. The Red House is his darkest work yet, but it's not cynical. There are no grand epiphanies. Life just goes on in its usual ramshackle way, generously offering up new mornings. By the time they're packing up to leave at the end of the week, has anything really changed? Superficially very little. We are left dangling, but in a strangely satisfying way."

New York Daily News: "Certainly “The Red House,” is conventional, but satisfyingly so. Haddon hasn’t much new to say about troubled families, but he certainly is a close observer."

Publishers Weekly: "Characters are well-drawn (especially regarding the marital tensions lurking below facades of relative bliss), but what emerges is typical without being revelatory, familiar without becoming painfully human. The tiresomely quirky Haddon misses the epochal timbre that Jonathan Franzen hit with Freedom, and his constantly distracted novel is rarely more than a distraction itself."

Opening line:

"Cooling towers and sewage farms."

Notable passage:

"How extraordinary that it should happen so quickly. Like flipping a coin. Inexplicable that she had not known before. Had it been standing behind her all along like a pantomime villain, visible to everyone apart from her? What strangers we are to ourselves, changed in the twinkling of an eye."