November 11, 2010

Great House - Nicole Krauss


I am going to go out on a limb (although personally I don't really feel as though it is that big!) and say that I have found my best read of 2010 and possibly one of my all time top ten favourite reads - I loved Great House that much.

My first Nicole Krauss read was The History Of Love - which I also adored saying about it at the time; "It is simply stunning" and at the risk of sounding like a broken record I am definitely going to have to echo that sentiment in regards to Great House.

Great House weaves several people's stories together with the central and connecting character being a large wooden desk which is first introduced to the reader in this way;

I looked across the room at the wooden desk at which I had written seven novels, and on whose surface, in the cone of light cast by a lamp, lay the piles of pages and notes that were to constitute an eighth. One drawer was slightly ajar, one of the nineteen drawers, some small and some large, whose odd number and strange array, I realized now, on the cusp of their being suddenly taken from me, had come to signify a kind of guiding if mysterious order in my life, an order that, when my work was going well, took on an almost mystical quality.

The desk is described in varying ways by different characters - depending upon their relationship to and connection with it. The author of the above quote is Nadia - an American writer who originally acquired the desk from the Chilean poet, Daniel Varsky when he returns to his homeland. The desk is meant to be on loan but when Varsky is arrested and then disappears Nadia ends up holding on to the desk and building it into her writing routine and success.

The book is told in alternating chapters from different characters who have had a connection with the desk in the past - or who are going to have a connection to it in the future. In their stories the desk becomes far more than just a simple piece of furniture and we see the meaning it holds for each of the characters and how it has impacted on their lives and decisions.

The writing in Great House is haunting and memorable and the structure is perfection. Each character was so richly drawn and their memories, purpose and goals were clearly portrayed to the reader - although not so much that I didn't feel as though I could not attach my own meaning to the story through my reading.

I love, loved, loved this book and am already ready to go back and read it all over again.

26 comments:

Joan Hunter Dunn said...

I too loved The History of Love (great title too). This book sounds really interesting and reminds me a little of Tibor Fischer's The Collector's Collector. Have you read it? I read it a long time ago but it has stayed with me. It's a story told through a pot, and if I remember rightly through many ages.

farmlanebooks said...

Wow! That is high praise! I haven't read The History of Love or this, but it looks as though I should do :-)

Karen said...

Hi Joan - No, I haven't heard of that book before - I might have to look it up.

Hi Jackie - I know - I am a little bit in love with this book I think!! It was just such a great reading experience - really emotional and intense but enjoyable at the same time.

Tamara said...

Hi Karen, you review of this book, and the History of Love, is very convincing. It's a fascinating concept to tell the story of the desk. I remember seeing a movie about a house, and it told the story of the different lives that had lived in it over the generations. I really enjoyed the compilation of life stories coming together over the house.. or the desk. Thanks

Karen said...

Hi T - Yeah, I really like it when authors or film makers use these concepts too - it shows how objects can be really important in our narratives I think. Like shoes!!!

Nadia said...

This books sounds wonderful! I'll definitely add it to my TBR list. I read The History of Love when it first came out and enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to this new one by Krauss. Thanks for the great review!

Steph said...

So glad to hear that you enjoyed this book so much! I had such high expectations when I approached it, and I'm not sure that it quite met my lofty heights, but I did think it was really wonderful. I mean, Nicole Krauss can pretty much do no wrong!

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I've heard a lot of mixed feelings on this book, but your review is wonderful! I might have to check this one out!

cousinsread said...

I checked this out of the library, but haven't started it yet. Sounds like I should move it to the top of the TBR pile.

Karen said...

Hi Nadia - I think if you enjoyed The History of Love then you should enjoy this one too...

Hi Steph - She is a brilliant writer isn't she??

Hi Coffee - I must admit I haven't read any other reviews for this one as yet - you can probably tell my feelings for it aren't mixed!

Hi cousinsread - I really hope you enjoy it when you get to it!

nomadreader (Carrie) said...

You liked this one a lot more than I did! I loved her writing, but the story didn't keep pace for me. I do hope to read History of Love soon too!

Karen said...

Hi Carrie - I hope you enjoy The History of Love much more!

lovely treez said...

I loved The History of Love and this one is going straight onto the wish list. I have Man Walks into A Room on TBR pile too, patiently waiting...

liz said...

In case some of you are interested, KQED's "The Writers' Block" just published an episode of Nicole Krauss reading from her new novel:

http://www.kqed.org/arts/programs/writersblock/episode.jsp?essid=38566

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