BOOK REVIEW: THE HOUSE OF LEAVES BY MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI

The house of leaves may intimidate you. It isn’t small and the fact that it is classified as a horror novel may frighten you. If you are willing to take the plunge, I assure you that this book will not disappoint.

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Title: The House of Leaves
Author: Mark Z. Danielewski
Published: March 7th 2000 by Random House
709 pages
Rating: ★★★★

The story itself isn’t very easy to explain. As a reader, you are following a few different perspectives, mainly Zampano’s manuscript and Johnny Truants thoughts. Both of which were equally as important and interesting throughout this book.

Johnny Truant is a young man who works in a tattoo shop and who’s biggest concern is getting a pretty girls attention. That is, until he discovers this book.

His best friend, Lude, lives in the same apartment building as Zampano. When Lude learns about the passing of his neighbour, he brings Johnny inside of Zampano’s home. There, Johnny is questioning the man who had once lived within those walls and comes across a mysterious trunk full of documents written by Zampano himself. Curious, Johnny takes this with him. When Johnny begins sorting through the strange pile of papers (leaves), he discovers that Zampano was writing a manuscript about a very strange short film: The Navidson Record. This horrifying documentary is about a family that had lived in a house unlike any other. The house on Ash Tree Lane was in fact bigger on the inside than on the outside. Don’t laugh. Hallways would appear unexpectedly and disappear just as fast. The depth and what lies within the hallways were also always changing without the slightest explanation. In The Navidson Record, Navidson and his team explore the hallways, with high hopes of finding answers.

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It is safe to say that the house had a mind of it’s own and could somehow read into the paranoid minds of the people who dared to explore it. The more you read, the more it becomes clear that the houses changes reflected the psychology of those inside.

Johnny soon becomes obsessed with the fascinating manuscript written by Zampano, and adds his own notes as he reads and analyses, desperately wanting to finish what Zampano had started. Through his notes, we can see how Johnny’s mental state changes because of the horror that is The Navidson Record.

But was there really ever a film titled, The Navidson Record? This still puzzles me.

The book is a maze. While reading it, you will be turning it every which way. Sometimes starting from the bottom, sometimes from the side. You will even go as far as flipping your book upside down to grasp and comprehend as much as you possibly can. The format makes for a very original, unforgettable read. The style really impacts the storytelling and makes The House of Leaves realistic and frightening. It is like having the original manuscript by Zampano in your very own hands.

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It will mess with your mind.

Reading about the manuscript and how it had affected Johnny, and feeling as if you are holding that terrifying manuscript, is more than enough to take over your thoughts. Even after finishing, you will have questions. Questions that may never get answered. Questions that may always haunt you. There really isn’t an end to The House of Leaves.

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It’s complicated.

I find it impossible to read The House of Leaves one single time and feel as if you know everything. There is so much information, that it is easy to miss out on small details that may answer your future questions. The book is packed with references, poems, pictures, side notes, symbols and clues. I tried my best to apprehend as much as i could, although it really is difficult to analyse this story as you read it for the first time. Therefore, I plan on reading this monstrous book for a second time someday in the future.

It’s not so much a horror novel. Yes it scared me. It took over my life until I had finished the entire 709 pages. I couldn’t think of anything else as I sat alone in my quiet apartment, let alone sleep. However, it is much more than just horror. It has romance. It has suspense. It has mystery. It has psychology. It has almost everything and it brings readers to really participate in this story more than I believe any other book can.

Feel free to search through the forums on The House of Leaves official website if you have already read this book. I, however, had tried to do so and ended up with an even bigger headache than when I had first finished this book. I am going to give myself some time before re-reading and trying to decode this mind-blowing piece of literature.

All in all, I really enjoyed The House of Leaves, perhaps more than I ever thought that I would. It is still just so frigging fascinating to me. What is real? What is fiction? What if my hallway turns into this? What if I end up like Johnny? I have developed a great appreciation for the complex work of Mark Z. Danielewski and I highly highly highly recommend giving The House of Leaves a try.
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1 Comment

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