House of Leaves | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
"A young family moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside."
House of Leaves is a standalone horror novel by Mark Z. Danielweski.
This is my second time reading this book, having read it years ago but not quite remembering all that happened. This is a complex read, no doubt about that, and I am still unsure if I read it the right way. If you have never heard of this book before, it does not follow a traditional format. I will get more into this in the writing section, but the way the text appears and the double-layered story makes this book rather difficult to read. As such as well, I had to break up the story and rate it by the different stories as well.
Some parts I enjoyed more than others, resulting in an average rating of four stars. I didn't love this much as others seem to, mainly because of all the extra content, but the main story centred around Ash Tree Lane was phenomenal.
Let's get into some details.
As I have already briefly mentioned, this is a complex story format-wise. Aside from the text which at points would be backwards, sideways, or barely even there, there are the footnotes. Not only are you meant to follow the footnotes when directed, but there is also a secondary story in them as well. I wasn't sure how exactly I should go about reading it. Either I read as directed, following the footnotes, but I found that there was too much separation between them and the main story and I would get lost. So, I read the main story and then went back and read the footnotes which worked well enough.
There is no denying though that this was a well-written story full of atmosphere. It almost reads like a nonfiction as it is written like a research paper based on a documentary of the events that happened. There is a downside to that though due to the sheer amount of footnotes that don't add anything to the narrative. The story also gets a bit tangent because it goes into such depth analyzing the Navidson Record, and I didn't care to read about that so I skimmed through a lot. The font wasn't also very accessible so it was hard to read.
I had to break down my rating for the story into three since this was a multi-layered story. This is a double-layered story, and what I mean by that is there are two separate but interconnected stories being told; a central story presented on the page as it normally would be, and a story in the footnotes. The central story, told partly in the present and partly through an examination of a documentary made about the events, follows Navidson and his family as they move into a new house on Ash Tree Lane. What was supposed to be a fresh start turns into a nightmare as they discover that their house is bigger on the inside.
This part of the story was next level, as it took a simple context and jam-packed it with as much unsettling atmosphere as you possibly could. All you do is follow the characters as they go on several expositions to explore the depths of the house, but the sheer terror of what awaits in the unknown as well as the ensuing claustrophobia is unparalleled. I don't know about you, but I would have moved out of the house right away once you realize how expansive the unknown was. This part of the story, however, was the highlight of the book and the rest of it fell a bit flat for me.
I ended up being way less invested in the footnote story, which follows Johnny whose friend found documents titled The Navidson Record under the floorboards of his recently deceased neighbours. I just didn't care to follow his perspective at all, even though there were some interesting elements to it (mainly the psychological ones). I wanted the story to focus more on that and his connection to the other story and how it ends up unravelling him, but instead I read way too much about him and Lude's relations with women.
Should I ever re-read this again, I will just stick to the story about Ash Tree Lane and skip over everything else because that is the only thing worth reading about in this book. Maybe this would have better functioned as a short story rather than a piece of ergodic literature, but there is no denying this was one hell of a piece of fiction.