I have to be honest with you, dear reader. I almost did not write this review. I have no idea what I am going to say about this book. I am not even sure I fully understand it myself.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is definitely a unique novel and I have not read anything quite like it. Sure, I remember reading S. by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams and it had margin notes, but it was nothing like this. House of Leaves has unique page layouts and copious footnotes, including footnotes for the footnotes. I found myself turning the book upside down, using a mirror, squinting, and doing copious amounts of rereading.
What I can tell you about House of Leaves is that this man, Truant, finds a manuscript in the apartment of a recently deceased man, Zampanò. It turns out to be an academic study of a film called The Navidson Record, only the film does not exist.
I do not think I can make sense of the novel, or the stories within it. I can say that the house in The Navidson Record is bigger on the inside than on the outside, first by less than an inch, though this seems to change throughout the book, along with the location of the hidden hallway giving the house its additional space inside. I can also say that many have called this book a horror story, but also a love story.
I can sort of see the love story part of it, or why people would call it that, given Karen’s piece of this puzzle, but I did not really feel the love on my end. In terms of the horror side of things, sure, though I found that I was much too focused on other things in this book so I was not horrified or scared by anything. I would have thought that I would be, since I do get scared easily, but this was not the case. Sure, certain moments caught my attention for one reason or another, but this was rare.
I think there is a significant fault in House of Leaves, which is the formatting of the book. I like the concept, but sometimes I just did not understand why pages had to be laid out the way they were. What was the point of only a couple words on the page, or the need to have blocks or black, or even to have pages that required to you turn the book or use a mirror? Some have cited the author wanted these pages to make you feel claustrophobic or to mimic the house the book was about, but I just did not see the point. In addition, this unique formatting made it hard to read. I was focusing on the mechanics of reading the book, such as when to turn the book, in what order to read the notes, and figuring out who was writing. There were different fonts, but they were not unique enough for me to immediately identify the speaker.
Since most of my focus was on how to read the book, and making sense of the different parts and formatting, I feel as if the plot of the book was lost. I know bits and pieces, but my enjoyment of the book was definitely dramatically reduced.
Would I recommend this book? No, probably not. If you are up for a serious challenge, maybe try this one. You may end up lost though, as I was, so be prepared for that. If you want to read something similar in style but easier to follow, I would suggest you try out S. by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams instead.
Title: House of Leaves
Author: Mark Z. Danielewski
Publisher: Random House