The basics: Great House is the story of several people very loosely linked by a gigantic desk with many drawers.
My thoughts: I adore the way Nicole Krauss writes. Typically when I read books in print, I opt to take notes and write down my favorite passages on paper. With this novel, I was so glad I had an ARC so I could dogear pages and underline passages. I most enjoy reading her prose slowly, and despite its complexity, it's immensely readable and has the essence of a conversation with a friend. It is conversational and aspirational. Nicole Krauss is a writer's writer:
"I chose the freedom of long unscheduled afternoons in which nothing happens but the slightest shift in mood as captured in a semicolon."Great House is broken into two parts with four sections each. While I thoroughly enjoyed her writing throughout, some parts were more successful as stories for me. Overall, I expected more cohesion than I discovered. Perhaps it is unfair to compare Great House to Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad (my review), but both are novels that seem to be interconnected stories. While A Visit from the Goon Squad began feeling like stories and ended up as a cohesive novel to me, Great House began feeling like a novel and ended up feeling more like stories in the end. Jennifer Egan also writes marvelously, but the story and its construction outshined her writing.
Great House at times seemed more spurned on by language than story. While I enjoyed most of the novel as parts, I would not consider it a novel. The book certainly falls short of inconsistent, but my enjoyment of the story diminished as the book wore on. Overall, I have some mixed feelings about the work as a whole, but I also believe my enjoyment of this book would increase if I re-read it.
As I revisit my favorite passages from the beginning of the book, I find myself enchanted by their poetry:
"Sometimes I say that I felt trapped in the poems I tried to write, which is like saying one feels trapped in the universe, or trapped in the inevitability of death, but the truth of why I stopped writing poetry is not any of these, not nearly, not exactly, the truth is that if I could explain why I stopped writing poetry than I might write it again."Great House is filled with truths that beg to be re-read:
"we take comfort in the symmetries we find in life because they suggest a design where there is none."
"We search for patterns, you see, only to find where the patterns break. And it's there, in that fissure, that we pitch our tents and wait."Clearly, there's a lot of great in this book, and it will appeal to many readers. I imagine it would be a wonderful choice for a book club, as there are many themes and details to discuss. Lovers of plot, however, will be sorely disappointed here.
The verdict: While I adored Krauss's writing, the story failed to resonate much with me after the first part. Recommended for fans of short stories and literary fiction, but novel lovers may find there's not enough connectedness in these interconnected stories.
Rating: 4.25 stars (out of 5)
Length: 289 pages
Publication date: October 12, 2010
Source: I received this book for review from the publisher. Thank you!
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