It’s hard to know where to begin when reviewing a book like House of Leaves. I certainly have never read another book quite like it. At face value it appears as a horror story, but ultimately many readers, and the author himself, have referred to it as a love story. But don’t be put of by this, it only serves to show how layered this book truly is.
The book sets off with photographer Will ‘Navy’ Navidson moving his family into their new Virginia home. It is seen by them as a fresh start – and an opportunity to repair a previously rocky marriage. To document this transition, Navy installs motion detecting HI-8 cameras throughout the house. The mystery begins when Navy realises, when working on the house one day, that the outside of the house measures just under an inch more than the inside of the house. Unable to find a reasonable excuse for this anomaly he gets hold of some buddies to come in and help out, expecting one of them to be able to explain it all away. However the solution remains out of their reach, and soon enough a black, cavernous, icy hallway has appeared where before there was nothing but wall. Navy and his friends enter the hallway, which stretches to impossible lengths and sizes and is accompanied by an intermittent growl.
The main part of the book is written by an old blind man names Zampanò and is a large academic text focussing on the occurrences within the Navidson household. This text, including interviews and quotes is accompanied by reams and reams of foot notes listing academics and scholars and related texts.
Acting as ring leader to Zampanò’s text is Johnny Truant. A decidedly hard to like young man from LA who found the record in the rotting apartment of Zampanò after his death. But Truant is a self professed ‘unreliable narrator’ and serves to add yet more footnotes to the original footnotes, with notes on his life and childhood and the unexplainable forces interfering with his life after discovering the documents of the Davidson family.
In the full colour edition the word House is printed in blue, slightly skewed from the rest of the text. Certain references made by Zampanó are written in red then crossed out. The back of the book supplies us with around 200 pages of extra notes and text, photographs, letters, poems and collages which we are referred to throughout the book.
The ultimate feeling of the book is one of total unease. Constantly unsure of what is coming next enables you to race through this mysterious tome.
Overall this book deserves 5 stars for sheer imagination and creativity, and also just for being a book that is genuinely good fun to read. Recommended to those who are looking for something a bit different and have the time to invest into it.
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