Review: House of Leaves

House_of_leavesHouse of Leaves

Mark Z. Danielewski

I bought this book in 2006 and intended to read it but never did.  The main reason was that it was so damn big and too damn heavy.  However, my book club chose it as the newest read and I finally ran out of excuses (it’s too heavy for the subway!) to not read the book.

The book is about a man, Johnny, who finds a manuscript written by a dead landlord he also found.  The manuscript is about a documentary created by a famous photographer as he moves his family into a brand new house in Virginia.  The house’s internal structure changes on its own to serve the house’s secret purpose, though the book explores a ton of other theories about what is actually going on.  I mean, the house is in Virginia.  It’s not really a spoiler to think it’s most likely evil.  Have you seen the speed traps in Virginia?  It’s the State of Evil Things.

Anyway, the book is filled with footnotes, references to bonus material at the back of the book (which may or may not be there), sections of labyrinth-like reading challenges, and in-text breaks from the main plot.  I’ve named those breaks: “What the tangent?!”

Overall, I thought the book was brilliantly constructed.  It takes on the feel of a maze nearly perfectly, exactly at the points when it needs to, and the extra material was a great way to find out more about characters in subtle ways.  However, the huge pockets of references and the times when Johnny interrupts the documentary were just too hard for me to get through.  I always wanted to skip his footnotes, and reading them felt like I was struggling through required reading in college.  I greatly disliked him as a character and by the end of the book, I was praying for his sweet, sweet demise.

I did love reading all the parts about the Navidson family, even the parts going into the background of the family members and their relationships.  That’s the only thing that kept me going until the end.

My final verdict?  If you’re looking for a challenge with mostly interesting characters, then grab this one.  Just be warned: It’s a doosey and it goes on for 250 pages too long.  And the narrator is a chump.  Oh, and you have to have the actual book.  I heard rumors that the formatting doesn’t allow it to translate to e-book (Score!).

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