Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jamie Takes On Great House by Nicole Krauss

Great House: A NovelTitle/Author: Great House by Nicole Krauss
Publisher/Year: W.W. Norton/ October 5 2010
How I Got This Book: Tahleen got an ARC of it and was so kind as to let me read it since I'm a HUGE fan of Nicole Krauss.
Why I Read This Book: I'd read anything Nicole Krauss wrote--be it cereal boxes or appliance manuals.
Rating: Somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars. Leaning towards four as I couldn't stop thinking about it for two weeks straight.

I have been dying to get my hands on this book as I'm a huge of fan of Nicole Krauss (and her hubby Jonathan Foer Safran). I honestly didn't even know what this book was about but I immediately added it to my TBR list as soon as I knew about it.

Krauss writes an interwoven novel of four different story lines of individuals and families who are inextricably bound together by a enormous desk with many drawers that bears a heavy history of its own, similar to the histories of those whose hands this desk has passed through. The people in the story are deeply affected by this desk in negative and positive ways, even after the desk has left their possession, and the mysteries and memories of previous owners echo in the deep recesses of these ominous drawers just waiting to be released.

This novel, although History of Love is still my favorite, does not disappoint. It is honest, beautiful and at times heartbreaking. It isn't just Krauss's ability to construct an intricate story the way a great craftsman would a building; it is also the way that her beautiful prose can resonate in the deepest caverns of your bones setting aflame some feeling that you know that you have felt before but have never been able to put into words. It is haunting in the way that deja vu always is.

Great House, like The History of Love, contains some of the most heartfelt character development I've seen in novels. The observations of the human condition are spot-on and the characters just come alive in all their despairs and hopes. It is one of those books that remind you just how fragile and complex humanity is. The theme of loss is ever present in this novel--the loss of loved ones, of possessions, of the world you knew and the loss of something that might have never been at all. The desk, to those connected to it, represents some semblance of permenance as they grapple with how  how to deal with loss and how to reassemble ourselves---a process I am sure we all can relate to.

I only had a few problems with the novel. Some places were kind of slow in certain storylines. I think she did a good job weaving the stories together but sometimes I got bored with a storyline or forgot something from another. I also felt like I still had a few questions after the novel that I didn't feel were addressed. I felt they were important so it kind of irked me. Another thing that was hard for me was that I felt like Krauss maintained the same tone throughout each story. I got a good sense of the characters and who they were but I never get a sense for the "voice" that was telling the story. I don't know if that makes sense but it does in my head.

One thing I really appreciated about this novel is that even though the storylines were bound together by this desk, these people were not strongly linked. Sometimes you read a novel where people were bound by a person or event and then you have five random people all coming together all linked by this one thing and it seems like it was just fate for them to find each other. I liked that there were brushings with people but they were sometimes far removed from the actual person. You'll see what I mean when you read it.

I'd recommend it to most people--especially those who already love Nicole Krauss or fans of her husband. If you haven't read anything by Nicole Krauss, I'd recommend you reading The History of Love first and then this one.


  1. SOunds like a good one. I read History of Love for my bookclub last year. I really enjoyed it!

  2. I tried to get into this last night for the readathon, but just couldn't. i think i build it up to high in my head, I've been looking forward to it for close to a year now. I'll definitely have to give it another shot!

    Thanks for the review!

  3. Ahh I've also wanted to read this since I first discovered it was coming out! I entered but didn't win an ARC, sadly. I'll definitely make sure to get my hands on a copy, though.

  4. Great review - honest about an author you love. I think it's incredibly difficult to put together a novel that follows many storylines. Many times I get that feeling that you describe, about stories that aren't as interesting, or I forget about characters and really have to work to remember what was going on. It's also hard when storylines are linked together but sometimes just barely - that makes it difficult to follow.

    I'll probably pick this up. I love the themes/ideas you mentioned.

  5. I think the silver lining in this for me is that I haven't read History of Love yet, so I still have that treat waiting for me. I really wish this book weren't marketed as a novel. I think my enjoyment would have been more if I thought it would be stories. I do want to re-read it though to see if I catch more interconnectedness.


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