Lacked a Deeper Connection for the Reader
The Red House is actually my first introduction to the writing of Mark Haddon, and as previous readers have written, it lacked a little something special for me.
Perhaps the easiest connection for any reader to make with The Red House is the fact that interacting with and understanding one's own family is never easy. Much like the central character siblings Angela and Richard, it's very easy to realize that while you may have grown up together, you are not the same as your sibling–you viewed your upbringing with two very different sets of eyes, and blood does not guarantee or create an intimate connection. The focus is largely based on the friction between the two; however, friction exists amongst the two characters' own individual families as well.
Much like the reader, Richard is still learning about the character of his new wife, Louisa, and her teenage daughter, Melissa. Alternatively, Angela at times mistakenly believes too firmly that she knows her family (a husband, Dominic, two teenage children, Alex and Daisy, and eight year old Benjamin, or Benjy), they do not know her. However, the reader soon finds that Angela's family is more insightful than she initially believes, and that even Angela does not quite understand herself.
Often, the book read more like a work of literature to be studied rather than simply enjoyed. While reading, I could easily see myself returning just a few years back to high school, where my class might dissect a chapter or two of the book to elaborate upon its meaning.
Obviously, Mr. Haddon has worked very hard to emphasize the character over the plot–we are fully immersed into what a character may be thinking, feeling, seeing, reading, or even listening to on an iPod. Unfortunately, what actually allowed me to gain insight into a character, or even feel a slight connection to them, was the limited dialogue between them.
To me, some of the most diverse, and thereby interesting, characters include Louisa, Benjy, and Daisy; however, we receive less character information about the first, and more information about what the latter two are reading, dreaming, or seeing opposed to truly feeling or believing.
True to its realism, the climax and closing of the book leaves the reader and its characters not quite on stable ground. A short holiday is not enough to mend all fences or truly understand what lies beneath the surface of each character.