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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Great House by Nicole Krauss

What's the story?


"For twenty-five years, a solitary American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet's secret police; one day a girl claiming to be his daughter arrives to take it away, sending her life reeling. Across the ocean in London, a man discovers a terrifying secret about his wife of almost fifty years. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer is slowly reassembling his father's Budapest study, plundered by the Nazis in 1944.

These worlds are anchored by a desk of enormous dimension and many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or give it away. In the minds of those it has belonged to, the desk comes to stand for all that has disappeared in the chaos of the world-children, parents, whole peoples and civilizations. Nicole Krauss has written a hauntingly powerful novel about memory struggling to create a meaningful permanence in the face of inevitable loss."

My two cents:

This book was a little hard to put all of the pieces together. The book is told from several points of view and sometimes I found it difficult to put the pieces together and figure out where each person fit in. Once I did, it was really a gorgeous novel. I did wonder if the mystery surrounding each person didn't take away a little bit from the overall story.

I read Krauss' History of Love several years ago and was mesmerized by the writing. It was no different in Great House.

Here are two of my favorite passages:

"He went on for sometime while I sat listening in silence because I knew he was right, and like two people who have loved each other however imperfectly, who have lived side by side and watched the wrinkles slowly form at the corner of the other's eyes, and watched a little drop of gray, as if poured from a jug, drop into the other's skin and spread itself evenly, listening to the other's coughs and sneezes and collected mumblings, like two people who'd had one idea together and slowly allowed that idea to be replaced with two separate, less hopeful, less ambitious ideas, we spoke deep into the night, and the next night and the next night. For forty days and forty nights, I want to say, but the fact of the matter is it only took three. One of us had loved the other more perfectly, had watched the other more closely, and one of us listened and the other hadn't, and one of us held onto the ambition of the one idea for longer than was reasonable, where as the other, passing a garbage can one night, had casually thrown it away."
- From p. 38-39

"I hadn't thought about it until just now, but the night Daniel rang our bell in the winter of 1970 was the end of November, the same time of year she died 27 years later. I don't know what that's supposed to tell you; nothing, except that we take comfort in the symmetries we find in life because they suggest a design where there is none."
- From p. 82-83

My Rating:

3 out of 5 stars


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