Book Review: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

I still get nightmares. In fact, I get them so often I should be used to them by now. I’m not. No one ever really gets used to nightmares


Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.

Now, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and second and third appendices.

The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that 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.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams. Summary from Goodreads.

My Thoughts

I did not enjoy this read. House of Leaves is a psychological suspense thriller wrapped in a mockumentary within a journal. It is difficult to pin down this non-linear plot. House of Leaves is not a traditional piece of fiction.

House of Leaves is a story within a story. Within the footnotes, Johnny discovers a manuscript in his apartment of Zampano. This manuscript focuses on a critique of “The Navidson Record,” which is told outside of the footnotes. It is a lot to follow. “The Navidson Record” is a documentary that follows a family that lives in a house whose measurements do not match the blueprints of the house. One room in the house grows. It takes on a life of its own, developing layers and layers of the area to explore. Which the characters do for days at a time. While the family deals with the usual house, in the footnotes Johnny searches for the proof of “The Navidson Record.”

The concept of House of Leaves is incredibly interesting. I quickly lost interest in House of Leaves because of the footnotes and style in which the story is told. Sections of House of Leaves are in an academic style which was taxing to get through. The last 300 or so pages are an index of things that were referenced throughout the book as well as a few other pieces. I skimmed through this section. Bringing the final page count to close to 700 pages.

House of Leaves is one of a kind. While I did not enjoy it, there were noteworthy things that made the book interesting. Many of the pages had unusual layouts. The break from the traditional style of a book happens around the time the family in “The Navidson Record” reaches a certain spot in their growing room in their home. Some pages had one or two words, while others were covered top to bottom with text. Because of this, you turn the book upside down, sideways, and in every other direction one can hold the book. The use of the page helped build suspense. I would highly recommend, if you are interested in House of Leaves, you get a hard copy to fully explore the unique page layouts.

There is a lot going on within these pages, too much for me.

Should you read House of Leaves?

I do not know. As of now, House of Leaves is not a book I would recommend to everyone. I am glad I finally read it, but have no intention of reading anything similar.

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