Summary and book reviews of Great House by Nicole Krauss

Great House

A Novel

by Nicole Krauss

Great House
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2010, 289 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2011, 289 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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About this Book

Book Summary

Nicole Krauss has written a soaring, powerful novel about memory struggling to create a meaningful permanence in the face of inevitable loss.

For twenty-five years, a reclusive American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young Chilean poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet's secret police; one day a girl claiming to be the poet's daughter arrives to take it away, sending the writer's life reeling. Across the ocean, in the leafy suburbs of London, a man caring for his dying wife discovers, among her papers, a lock of hair that unravels a terrible secret. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer slowly reassembles his father's study, plundered by the Nazis in Budapest in 1944.

Connecting these stories is a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or have given it away. As the narrators of Great House make their confessions, the desk takes on more and more meaning, and comes finally to stand for all that has been taken from them, and all that binds them to what has disappeared.

Great House is a story haunted by questions: What do we pass on to our children and how do they absorb our dreams and losses? How do we respond to disappearance, destruction, and change?

Nicole Krauss has written a soaring, powerful novel about memory struggling to create a meaningful permanence in the face of inevitable loss.

ALL RISE
Talk to him.

Your Honor, in the winter of 1972 R and I broke up, or I should say he broke up with me. His reasons were vague, but the gist was that he had a secret self, a cowardly, despicable self he could never show me, and that he needed to go away like a sick animal until he could improve this self and bring it up to a standard he judged deserving of company. I argued with him - I'd been his girlfriend for almost two years, his secrets were my secrets, if there was something cruel or cowardly in him I of all people would know - but it was useless. Three weeks after he'd moved out I got a postcard from him (without a return address) saying that he felt our decision, as he called it, hard as it was, had been the right one, and I had to admit to myself that our relationship was over for good.

Things got worse then for a while before they got better. I won't go into it except to say that I didn't go out, not even to see my grandmother, and I didn't let anyone...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

One of the best things about being a BookBrowse book critic is gaining advance notice that a favorite author has written a new book. Which is why, as soon as I learned that Nicole Krauss had a new novel slated for release, I jumped at the opportunity to review it. I have been a fan for a while and couldn't wait to read her latest. She did not disappoint. Great House possesses the same inventive, graceful prose that she's known for.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal

[M]editative, insightful prose that makes for an intense and memorable reading experience.

Kirkus Reviews

Brainy and often lyrically expressive, but also elusive and sometimes infuriatingly coy; Krauss is an acquired taste.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This stunning work showcases Krauss's consistent talent.... Much like in Krauss's The History of Love, the sharply etched characters seem at first arbitrarily linked across time and space, but Krauss pulls together the disparate elements, settings, characters, and fragile connective tissue to form a formidable and haunting mosaic of loss and profound sorrow.

Booklist

Starred Review: Krauss’ masterful rendition of character is breathtaking, compelling.... This tour de force of fiction writing will deeply satisfy fans of the author’s first two books and bring her legions more.

Reader Reviews

Kris

The Empty Desk
I am sad to report that I truly believe this book had the best of intentions to be a wonderful novel. Without question, the idea of a desk and it's symbolic power to a writer is very interesting and captivating. Unfortunately, I believe the book ...   Read More

Elizabeth

Not the good book I was expecting
An empty apartment, a friend who has furniture to give away, and now a furniture-filled apartment with lots of stories and a wonderful desk. Then....after twenty-five years, the desk that she loved was being claimed by a relative of its original ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Everyday Magic in The History of Love

Although Nicole Krauss's three books to date would not be classified as magical realism (a style, according to Wikipedia, wherein, "normal occurrences… are presented in a straightforward manner, which allows the 'real' and the 'fantastic' to be accepted in the same stream of thought") there is in her books an element of the magic that exists in everyday life. These occurrences are no less magical for being easily written off as coincidence, or ascribed to déjà vu or the smallness of the planet.

For example, in The History of Love (2005), Krauss's second novel after Man Walks Into a Room (2002), Leo Gursky, a young Polish man fell in love with a beautiful woman named Alma in the late 1930s. He was so enraptured by her that ...

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