Book: Great House by Nicole Krauss
Published: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010
Pages: 289 pages
Where I got it: the library
Buy It: Amazon
Summary (from Goodreads): A powerful, soaring novel about a stolen desk that contains the secrets, and becomes the obsession, of the lives it passes through.
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 thoughts: Nicole Krauss is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. I absolutely adored The History of Love and although I wasn't completely head over heels for Man Walks Into a Room, I thought it was a good first novel. Krauss' third novel, Great House, had me captivated from page one. There is something so poetic about her writing. I love the way she is able to interweave the stories of so many people, connecting them through this one object that traveled across countries and seas. Although there were times I felt confused about the time line or how they could have all had possession of the same desk at one time, I wasn't too caught up in the logistics of it because the back story of the four different narrators was so interesting. The effort Krauss puts in to the detail of her characters is so admirable. I feel like the plot of her novels aren't very complex, which would normally bug me. In her case, they don't have to be due to her ability to create an interesting story just by putting the right words together on paper. She truly has a gift.
Great House was heartbreaking at times, but somehow I still came away from it feeling very positive. I loved the idea of the desk and how much an inanimate object could hold so much weight for various people. It gave me a sense of nostalgia for some of my favorite possessions both now and in the past. The section that resonated with me most was that of the antiques dealer in Jerusalem, Weisz, trying to rebuild his father's office with the original pieces that were taken by Nazis during the war. Weisz explains what he does as an antiques dealer in this quote- "It's true, I can't bring the dead back to life. But I can bring back the chair they once sat in, the bed where they slept." It's funny how something so seemingly unimportant can bring back a flood of memories for a person but it's so true.When I went home for Christmas this year, sleeping in my old bedroom at my parents house was exactly what I needed after moving so far away from my family and the city I grew up in.
Whether you are a fan of Nicole Krauss or not, please do yourself a favor and check out her website. It's currently designed for the release of Great House and it's just fabulous! The piano on the right hand side is genius. It was such a small piece of the book but it made me happy to see it integrated into her site design (if you've already read Great House, you'll know what I mean). I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a story full of beautiful language and great detail. Krauss is also married to the wonderful Jonathan Safran Foer and I feel like they have similar writing styles, so if you're a fan of his, definitely check this book out! Also, if you haven't read The History of Love, go do so now. Please and thank you :)
My rating: 4 stars