The Red House by Mark Haddon – Audiobook Review

The Red House by Mark Haddon, narrated by Maxwell Caulfield
Published in audio by Random House Audio; published in print by Doubleday, both imprints of Random House


From the publisher:

The set-up of Mark Haddon’s brilliant new novel is simple: Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister Angela and her family to join his for a week at a vacation home in the English countryside. Richard has just re-married and inherited a willful stepdaughter in the process; Angela has a feckless husband and three children who sometimes seem alien to her. The stage is set for seven days of resentment and guilt, a staple of family gatherings the world over.

But because of Haddon’s extraordinary narrative technique, the stories of these eight people are anything but simple. Told through the alternating viewpoints of each character, The Red House becomes a symphony of long-held grudges, fading dreams and rising hopes, tightly-guarded secrets and illicit desires, all adding up to a portrait of contemporary family life that is bittersweet, comic, and deeply felt. As we come to know each character they become profoundly real to us. We understand them, even as we come to realize they will never fully understand each other, which is the tragicomedy of every family.

Thoughts on the story:

Haddon’s plotting in The Red House was fairly good, and he told his story well. Unfortunately, none of his characters really had any redeeming characteristics, and he never managed to make me care about any of them, or what happened to them. This lack of caring about the characters in any way made me not care about the book, either. If I had not been reviewing this for Audiofile Magazine, I would likely have just stopped reading, and I don’t think I would have missed anything had I done so.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Caulfield did a fine job narrating in many respects, but he didn’t really differentiate between the voices of different characters, which made this book – with its eight points of view – just really not work well in audio, which really just killed it. The right narrator might have imbued the characters with increased humanity and made me feel empathy for them, but it just didn’t happen here.

For more on the audio production, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.


Maybe just go re-read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

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Source: Audiofile Magazine.
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7 comments to The Red House by Mark Haddon – Audiobook Review

  • Not being able to decipher the different people makes this audio sound impossible. Thanks for your honesty.

  • Sorry to hear this one was a disappointment. I still haven’t read Curious Incident. Thanks for the nudge to put that one back up near the top of the TBR list.

  • One of my biggest complaints about an audiobook is too many characters and the inability to tell them apart. I haven’t read Curious Incident yet although I have it in print. Reading that does sound like a better idea.

  • resentment and guilt..just like my family gatherings! lol
    but seriously, if you don’t come to care about the characters, what is the point?

  • Thanks! Your review reassures me. I had loved so much The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and also A Spot Of Bother that I requested this book far ahead of publication to be sure I wouldn’t be #100 on my library waiting list. well, I didn’t go further than p. 25.
    I couldn’t figure out really who was talking, or even who was dreaming, thinking, or reading. Too chopped. Not interesting at all. I was so very disappointed, and still don’t understand what some top notch reviewers find so glorious in this book

  • I was wondering how an audio edition of this one would work! Not too well, it seems! I actually liked the book as a print book but it’s not a heartwarming story at all. The author was experimenting with style, and I thought it worked pretty well, once I got the hang of it.