Posts Tagged ‘David Mitchell’

Some Fiction From the First Decade of the 2000s (2000-2009) That is Too Good to be Forgotten


Below are ten works of fiction from the early 2000s all about which I became enthusiastic and which led me to put these writers in my Must-Read category.


‘The Other Side of You’ by Salley Vickers (2006) – Salley Vickers connects the great works of art, in this case the art of Caravaggio, with the conscious daily lives of her characters in a compelling way. Her novels are definitely literary, yet are as light as a soufflé.




‘Ludlow’ by David Mason (2007) – Here is a novel-in-verse but not with the subject matter you would expect for a novel in verse. The coal miners of Ludlow, Colorado go on strike in 1914, one of the cruelest, bloodiest chapters in the history of American labor. The verse novel strategy works brilliantly to describe scenes that are not always pretty.


‘The Beauty of the Husband’ – A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos by Anne Carson (2001) – In lyrical lines that suggest the movements of tango dancers, Carson describes scenes from a doomed marriage. This is a modern take on the intimate cruelties of marriage.

Three minutes of reality

All I ever asked

She stands looking out at rain on the roof.”

‘The Inheritance of Loss’ by Kiran Desai (2006) – I read much of the work of her mother Anita Desai, and daughter Kiran Desai carries on brilliantly. ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ has depth, emotion, hilarity, and imagination; what more can you ask for?. But why hasn’t Kiran Desai published any fiction since 2006?




‘The Known World’ by Edward P. Jones (2003) – By focusing on a black slave owner, Edward P. Jones avoids turning this novel into a morality play of good and evil. There is no one preaching. The matter-of-fact tone only intensifies the reader’s reaction to this story.




‘Black Swan Green’ by David Mitchell (2006) – This is David Mitchell’s lightest most engaging novel, and it is my favorite of his work.

These jokes the world plays, they’re not funny at all.”




‘Gilgamesh’ by Joan London (2001) – A teenage woman and her young child take an amazing trip from rural Western Australia to Armenia and back. This is a blunt and beautifully written novel that deals with life’s tough truths.





‘John Henry Days’ by Colson Whitehead (2001) – Even before ‘Underground Railroad’, Colson Whitehead wrote wonderful novels. This novel is more humorous and thus more fun for me than ‘Underground Railroad’. Sometimes it seems writers lose their lightness as they get older.



‘Lush Life’ by Richard Price (2008) – Richard Price is the excellent writer of novels that take place on the streets of New York. He lived in a housing project as a child and knows all about the city street life. He has branched out to writing for TV and the movies, but I have followed his written fiction from the beginning.




‘How the Light Gets In’ by M. J. Hyland (2004) In 2004, M. J. Hyland was the new female novelist who burst on the scene with this her first wonderful novel and got much of the attention and some awards. After reading this novel and her next, ‘Carry Me Down’, I put her in my must-read category. However she has not published a novel since 2009.



Generosity’ by Richard Powers (2009) – A likable and passionate novel about the search for happiness and the Happiness gene. And you thought our state of mind was the result of happy or sad events in our lives?


Happy Reading!

‘Slade House’ by David Mitchell – Haunted, but Humorous

‘Slade House’ by David Mitchell (2015) – 238 pages



Slade Alley is an easy-to-miss back lane off of Westwood Road.  Once on Slade Alley you will come upon a black iron door, only two-feet by two-feet, on the side of a dwelling that you must crawl through to get into Slade House.  But once you are inside, the rooms are huge and ornate despite the house having been bombed to rubble during World War II.

Here is a haunted house story.  A pair of ancient shape-shifting twins, Jonah and Norah Grayer, live in Slade House, and every nine years they must find an Engifted soul to drain from a human in order to rejuvenate themselves.   Thus all the chapters occur nine years apart (1979, 1988, 1997, 2006, 2015) as another unsuspecting soul stumbles into Slade House.

Here is another example of the many entertainments playing horror for laughs which are so prevalent today.  David Mitchell is a delight at setting up these situations, and ‘Slade House’ is great fun to read.  Only a few of us readers would expect more from David Mitchell than a mock-horror romp.

Even the cut-out window on the cover of the book tells you it was designed to move product.   This is an attempt to earn some big money by one of our best writers.  And why not?  Why should the big money in the book publishing business be restricted to hacks?

‘Slade House’ is a lark, a pastiche.  For what it is, this humorous haunted story is remarkably well done. I have little doubt you will enjoy reading it.  The question is whether or not one of our very finest writers should be spending his time writing such tried-and-true material.  Perhaps he should, in order for our literary writers to reclaim the mantle of popularity.  We certainly do not need another novel of contemporary suburban angst anyway.  But at the same time I have a vision of David Mitchell sitting at his desk writing ‘Slade House’ in his sleep.  This haunted house and its trappings were probably not much of a challenge for him.

Perhaps he can make enough money off of ‘Slade House’ so he can write something more original next time.


Grade: B+


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