I finished it! One of the LARGEST books in my to-be-read pile, and I finally finished it! I swear, it has taken at least three years for me to get through this book, and I’m so happy to say that I did it.
House of Leaves was actually a gift to a friend of mine and I oh-so shamelessly borrowed it for the past couple years. I’m a friend of a different kind, clearly 😉
I hope you guys were able to finish a book in your TBR pile- it’s so satisfying when you can cross something off your list. Go ahead and read on if you want a review of the book! It is a very abstract kind of a book, so a lot of people don’t think it’s worth reading in a sort of conventional way. The premise is easy to lose when most critics talk about the stylistic choices Danielewski used and the point of the novel… but I’ll attempt to give my own impression that explains the story and its appeal.
Title: House of Leaves
Author: Mark Danielewski
Length: REALLY long… 600+ pages
Synopsis: Johnny Truant is a tattoo parlor employee living on his own when he stumbles upon a written documentation called The Navidson Report. This report is volumes long, filled to the brim with footnotes and references from the previous reader, a Mr. Zampano, the former tenant of his ramshackle apartment. Truant’s self-awareness and grip on reality is shaken as he discovers the long-lost story about a house within the report’s pages. As the lives of the house’s owners fall apart, so does his, and the readers are taken along as both stories play out.
Like a mirror to the logic-destroying house, Truant narrates the crumbling of his mind in conjunction with the discovery of what the house really is. Said to be nightmare inducing, Danielewski sets out to make the reader question their own sanity as they learn the hidden secrets of the House of Leaves.
Impression: So, right off the bat, this story is stylistically written unlike any other. There are pages that mimic the narrator losing his mind and also represent the alien-like nature of the house. The house is like an MC Escher painting, actually.
It has a basic façade, but the foundation is built on an enormous underground cavern/room/hall that has no lights and no conceivable doorways but for the giant stairwell that leads seemingly to the center of hell. The Navidson Report, the story that takes up most of the pages in this book, is about the Navidson family who moves into this house. The patriarch, Will Navidson, leads a group of his friends and fellow documentarians into the center of the house to discover where the stairwell leads. His life partner, a model named Karen Green, and his children stay in the house and receive the crackling radio reports as Will travels miles and miles into the Earth to discover the truth about his house.
Johnny Truant happens upon this record when he moves into a new apartment, and as he reads it, he slowly loses his mind. He already started as a sort of unreliable narrator, and his tales increase in skepticism as he tells crazier and crazier stories… and his (lack of) mental stability is supported by other documents that Danielewski thought would be interesting to the reader, like letters from Truant’s mom in a mental hospital… it runs in the family, apparently.
What I felt when I read the book wasn’t overt fear. Danielewski has never claimed that the story is a ghost story or haunted house story or psychological thriller, but many of his fans claim it is. When asked himself, he says it’s more of a love story between Will and Karen. I find this hard to believe, actually, because though the Navidson Report does include information about their rekindling romance, it seems more like a self-discovery for Will and Johnny Truant. They both kind of learn about themselves along the way, even though it isn’t necessarily for the better.
I wasn’t plagued by the nightmares that the book is said to induce, but it did stay with me for a while. It’s creative format really helps with the immersion in such a lengthy and dry story (it’s very technically written) and makes the audience wonder if maybe the Navidson Report is real and the terrifying house could be located just down the street. It’s a super intelligent book with a lot of interwoven stories. I will give it 4 feather pens because it took SUCH a long time (around 80 pages) for me to actual become interested in the story and I really wish there was more of a resolution. I feel like the secrets of the house were never really discovered, even though Will ended up [SPOILERS] happily ever after with his family again… maybe that’s what Danielewski meant when he said it’s a love story. That’s literally the only loose end that is resolved. Since the narrator (Truant) is so unreliable and psychologically unsettled, there really is no resolution to his story. It’s somewhat expected and not a bad choice on Danielewski’s part. With such a terribly unsettled narrator, that seems to be the only way his story could have ended.
It’s possible that the novel itself is a fabrication of Truant’s mind. He regularly tells lies and makes up stories about his past. Seeing how unstable his own mother was at the end makes me wonder if all of it is actually in Truant’s head. The fact that Danielewski created such a compelling story within a story within a story is truly masterful. He did a fantastic job writing in such an unconventional way. However, if you’re looking for a bite-your-nails, pull the blanket over your head, kind of a scary story, I’d say try for something else. If you love psychological novels, though (like The Shining, etc.) this would be great for you. Especially if you want something that is more rooted in reality than something fantastical.
I hope you guys enjoyed this review and great job with you own monthly challenges! Please let me know if any of you have any stories you’ve wanted to read or see a review of!
I can’t wait to chat with you all again soon!