Great House

Great House

3.2 203
by Nicole Krauss
     
 

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Finalist for the 2010 National Book Award in Fiction
Winner of the 2011 ABA Indies Choice Honor Award in Fiction
Winner of the 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Award
Shortlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize in Fiction

A powerful, soaring novel about a stolen desk that contains the secrets, and becomes the obsession, of the lives it passes through.

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Overview

Finalist for the 2010 National Book Award in Fiction
Winner of the 2011 ABA Indies Choice Honor Award in Fiction
Winner of the 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Award
Shortlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize in Fiction

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 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. "This is a novel about the long journey of a magnificent desk as it travels through the twentieth century from one owner to the next. It is also a novel about love, exile, the defilements of war, and the restorative power of language."—National Book Award citation

Editorial Reviews

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
What gives the quickening of life to this elegiac novel…[is] exquisitely chosen sensory details that reverberate with emotional intensity…Krauss has taken great risks in dispensing with the whimsy and humor that she summoned for her tragic vision in The History of Love. Here she gives us her tragic vision pure. It is a high-wire performance, only the wire has been replaced by an exposed nerve, and you hold your breath, and she does not fall.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
A writing desk serves as Krauss's literary device to connect five striking vignettes. So, too, are the characters emotionally linked through lives that involve writing and reading, love overshadowed by loss, and connection outweighed by isolation. The book is narrated at a stately pace—which will be appreciated by the serious listener who might wish to stop the audio to write down a line or two—by Robert Ian MacKenzie (narrator of McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series) who demonstrates that he can do wonders with material he can sink his teeth into. His performance as a British professor married to a reclusive writer is a marvel, and Alma Cuervo's evocation of a lonely author haunted by her relationship to a previous owner of the desk is affecting and nuanced. Listeners who enjoy lingering over a top-notch novel will be intellectually nourished by this audio. A Norton hardcover. (Oct.)
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.”
Book Page
“Surely if there is one book each author is meant to write, then there might also be one book each reader is meant to read. For plenty of fans out there, Great House just might be that book.”
Yevgeniya Traps - New York Press
“Artlessly lovely… the pleasure of reading this book is in its details, its intimation of sincerity, its quiet wisdom.”
The New York Times Book Review
[An] elegiac novel…achieved through exquisitely chosen sensory details that reverberate with emotional intensity. Here [Krauss] gives us her tragic vision pure. It is a high-wire performance, only the wire has been replaced by an exposed nerve, and you hold your breath, and she does not fall.— Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
The Wall Street Journal
[Krauss] writes of her characters’ despair with striking lucidity…an eloquent dramatization of the need to find that missing piece that will give life its meaning.— Sam Sacks
The San Francisco Chronicle
While her prior, much-vaunted novel, The History of Love, was certainly fresh and winning, Great House strikes me as a richer, more seasoned exploration of the themes and images that bedevil Krauss… Krauss’ sentences are so beautiful, rendered in such simple, clear language, I had to stop to reread many.— Joan Frank
The Boston Globe
[The characters’] stunningly distinct and lively voices hold us captive to their versions of their lives. Krauss, who began her career as a poet, can do just about anything with the English language.— Ann Harleman
Elle
The most heartbreaking part of Great House, the third novel by Nicole Krauss, is having to finish it…As the mysteries of this beautifully written novel come spooling out, you’ll marvel at how profoundly one brilliantly crafted metaphor involving a mute wooden artifact can remind us what it means to be alive.— Rachel Rosenblit
Associated Press Staff
A novel brimming with insights into the human psyche…often haunting and ultimately rewarding.— Monica Rhor
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Krauss’ organic scenes soar, she is stunning.— Karen R. Long
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Exquisite…Krauss is a poetic stylist whose prose gives tremendous weight to her characters’ pain and struggles.— Sharon Dilworth
TheAtlantic.com
Krauss has a unique way of assembling novels—baroque, complex, and with stunning tidiness that isn’t clear until the very last page. All the parts do fit together in the end. The shape they form is the ghastly Great House, and its walls are ideas that leave the reader reverberating.— Jennie Rothenberg Gritz
New York Press
Artlessly lovely… the pleasure of reading this book is in its details, its intimation of sincerity, its quiet wisdom.— Yevgeniya Traps
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
[A] brave new novel…[Krauss] has written one of the most lyrical novels I’ve read in a long time.— Mike Fischer
Jewish Week
With grace and originality, Krauss writes of loss and many kinds of loneliness, the connections between memory and objects, between memory and identity, and about uncertainty.— Sandee Brawarsky
The Denver Post
Steeped in place and memory, Great House is a worthy successor to Krauss’ earlier works, more complex and more challenging.— Robin Vidimos
Jewcy.com
Krauss’ third novel…is perhaps even more indicative [than The History of Love] of her ability to weave intricate storylines, craft emotionally layered characters and expertly draw out the pain, difficulty, and extreme complexity of human relationships.— Juliet Linderman
Huffington Post
A complex, richly imagined new novel… Krauss’s talent runs deep. And she cannot write a bad sentence: pound for pound, the sentences alone deliver epiphany upon epiphany.— Janet Byrne
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein - The New York Times Book Review
“[An] elegiac novel…achieved through exquisitely chosen sensory details that reverberate with emotional intensity. Here [Krauss] gives us her tragic vision pure. It is a high-wire performance, only the wire has been replaced by an exposed nerve, and you hold your breath, and she does not fall.”
Sam Sacks - The Wall Street Journal
“[Krauss] writes of her characters’ despair with striking lucidity…an eloquent dramatization of the need to find that missing piece that will give life its meaning.”
Joan Frank - The San Francisco Chronicle
“While her prior, much-vaunted novel, The History of Love, was certainly fresh and winning, Great House strikes me as a richer, more seasoned exploration of the themes and images that bedevil Krauss… Krauss’ sentences are so beautiful, rendered in such simple, clear language, I had to stop to reread many.”
Ann Harleman - The Boston Globe
“Krauss can do just about anything she wants with the English language.”
Maureen Corrigan - Fresh Air
“Krauss herself is a fiction pioneer, toying with fresh ways of rendering experience and emotion, giving us readers the thrill of seeing the novel stretched into amorphous new shapes.”
Rachel Rosenblit - Elle
“The most heartbreaking part of Great House, the third novel by Nicole Krauss, is having to finish it…As the mysteries of this beautifully written novel come spooling out, you’ll marvel at how profoundly one brilliantly crafted metaphor involving a mute wooden artifact can remind us what it means to be alive.”
Monica Rhor - Associated Press
“A novel brimming with insights into the human psyche…often haunting and ultimately rewarding.”
Karen R. Long - The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Krauss’ organic scenes soar, she is stunning.”
Sharon Dilworth - The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Exquisite…Krauss is a poetic stylist whose prose gives tremendous weight to her characters’ pain and struggles.”
Janet Byrne - Huffington Post
“A complex, richly imagined new novel… Krauss’s talent runs deep. And she cannot write a bad sentence: pound for pound, the sentences alone deliver epiphany upon epiphany.”
Jennie Rothenberg Gritz - TheAtlantic.com
“Krauss has a unique way of assembling novels—baroque, complex, and with stunning tidiness that isn’t clear until the very last page. All the parts do fit together in the end. The shape they form is the ghastly Great House, and its walls are ideas that leave the reader reverberating.”
Mike Fischer - The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“[A] brave new novel…[Krauss] has written one of the most lyrical novels I’ve read in a long time.”
Sandee Brawarsky - Jewish Week
“With grace and originality, Krauss writes of loss and many kinds of loneliness, the connections between memory and objects, between memory and identity, and about uncertainty.”
Robin Vidimos - The Denver Post
“Steeped in place and memory, Great House is a worthy successor to Krauss’ earlier works, more complex and more challenging.”
Andrea Barrett
“Stunning. . . . I was captivated by the first chapter and never disappointed thereafter. The richness of invention, the beauty of the prose, the aptness of her central images, the depth of feeling: who would not be moved?”
Juliet Linderman - Jewcy.com
“Krauss’ third novel…is perhaps even more indicative [than The History of Love] of her ability to weave intricate storylines, craft emotionally layered characters and expertly draw out the pain, difficulty, and extreme complexity of human relationships.”
Sam Tanenhaus - The New York Times Book Review
“One of America's most important novelists and an international literary sensation.”
Library Journal
An ominous writing desk is pivotal to the lives of the narrators of this chronicle, whose relationships are obscured like puzzle pieces defying placement until studied from every angle. The multiple narrators' performances are powerful and are true to the ethnicity of their respective characters. Krauss's (nicolekrauss.com) languid third novel, a haunted mystery brimming with lyrical details, is a National Book Award fiction finalist; her previous novel, The History of Love (2005)—also available from Recorded Books—won the William Saroyan International Prize. Essential. ["An intense and memorable reading experience," read the review of the New York Times best-selling Norton hc, LJ 8/10.—Ed.]—Judith Robinson, Dept. of Lib. & Information Studies, Univ. at Buffalo
Kirkus Reviews

A many-drawered writing desk resonates powerfully but for different reasons with the various characters in this novel about loss and retrieval from Krauss (The History of Love, 2005, etc.).

This brain-stretching novel travels back and forth across years and continents. In 1972 New York, a young novelist named Nadia spends one magical evening with a Chilean poet, Daniel, who then returns to Chile. Daniel leaves in her care a desk he claims belonged toFederico García Lorca. Shortly afterward, he dies at the hands of Pinochet's secret police. In 1999 a young woman named Leah announces to Nadia that she is Daniel's daughter and wants his desk returned. The reclusive Nadia lets Leah, who resembles Daniel, ship the desk to her home in Jerusalem but is emotionally devastated afterward—the desk represents her writing life. Her sense of herself as a woman and a writer deeply shaken, she decides to visit Jerusalem. Meanwhile in Jerusalem, a retired lawyer yearns to connect to his son Dovik, who has left his own legal career in England to move in with his father after his mother's funeral. Barely speaking, Dovik remains a frustrating mystery to his father. Back in 1970 in London, an Oxford professor finds his jealousy pricked when his wife Lotte, a writer and Holocaust survivor, gives her writing desk to the young poet Daniel, an admirer of her work. Only later, learning that Lotte gave up a baby for adoption before she married, does he realize that Daniel became a surrogate for her lost son. In 1998 in London, Leah is living with her brother when she goes to New York in search of the desk. While the disparate characters do not necessarily interact, their choices affect one another over the course of decades.

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393080360
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
09/06/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
289
Sales rank:
212,084
File size:
875 KB

Meet the Author

Nicole Krauss has been hailed by the New York Times as “one of America’s most important novelists.” She is the author of the international bestseller Great House, a finalist for the National Book Award, and Man Walks Into a Room. Her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages.

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Great House 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 203 reviews.
Humbee More than 1 year ago
Frankly speaking, I found this book completely confusing in structure. The author does way too much skipping around in a disjointed manner..leaving the reader wondering who on earth she's talking about! It spoiled the reading experience for me! 'though I did find many redeeming points of interest and captivating characters midst the chaos. Ms Krauss had some moments of beautiful writing and clarity throughout her work. Her original concept of a desk that was a "house" unto itself and that linked several people and families in their writing and angst, was a "great" one. It just was so scattered in presentation that it missed being a fantastic novel. I kept trying to find another, personal connection between all of the characters, and thought I had, only to wonder about that at the end. It felt as if I should re-read the novel before I would really get that full connection and understanding of the characters before I could claim complete understanding of the novel. I didn't want to reread it! I'm very well-read, and I'm intelligent enough to know when a book doesn't quite hit the mark. Sadly, although the critics have touted "Great House" for its brilliance and esoteric singularity, I found it difficult and exasperating to read. I also became mind-boggled and frustrated by the author's switching from ordinary prose and descriptive writing to a sort of James Joyceian stream-of-consiousness at a couple of points. Again, it was irritating and disrupted the reader's train of thought. All in all, I would find it difficult to recommend this book to my friends or anyone. I gave it 4-stars only because when she hits it right, as I've said, Ms Krauss writes beautifully and with great heart, and gives life to her characters.
mzery More than 1 year ago
poetic emotional lovely chilling.... but less of a story more of a collection of unrelated peices. i kept waiting for it to tie together.
moonmatrix More than 1 year ago
I read this being thoroughly confused the whole way. Too many short stories that never connect trying to be one great big book. Most of the intertwining lives within this novel are never solved. You will not find any resolve, or satisfation at the end of this paperweight. I am sorry I wasted my money and time that I can never get back, on this GREAT big waste of time.
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
I have mixed feelings about Great House. The story centers around a desk as it travels from owner to owner. To some, the desk is just a mere vessel to write letters at. To others, it is a more important piece, vital to the creative writing process. This wooden desk is quite unique, in that it contains 19 drawers which allow the owner to secret away little bits of life. Large and imposing, this desk seems to loom over its owners when they are in possession of it, and remind them of their past lives when it's gone. Krauss weaves in and out of different narratives going back and forth in time. The structure of the novel is quite complex and takes some time to get used to. It took many passes at reading the novel for me to get a feel for her style. I find this to be the case with most Literary Fiction, but with Great House, the extra effort didn't reward me in the way that I expected it would. The story fell flat and the some of the characters lacked depth. The one storyline that I was very taken with, is the one where Lotte's husband finds out that his wife has secrets. I was completely absorbed by that story, but with the weaving narrative, once you find yourself absorbed, you are then suddenly pushed back into a different narrative. This gave the novel a disjointed feeling. Not to say that the transitions weren't smooth, they were, but it's like watching a riveting TV show while your children are yapping incessantly at you. You simply want to go back to the story. not be pulled away from it and forced to look elsewhere. After re-reading the last third of the novel three times, I did experience the sense of loss that I felt the author was trying to convey. The desk becomes a Jewish symbol of survival and serves as a reminder of love and loss. The last third of the book is very powerful and thought-provoking but the novel as a whole felt a bit jagged around the edges. I didn't feel that the stories were fully explored and it left me with an empty, unfinished feeling. I read this for the 2010 Indie Lit Awards and although I do have some issues with how it was pieced together, I appreciate the complexity of the novel itself.
MiamiCyn More than 1 year ago
The common thread woven through Great House is a commanding, wooden desk with nineteen drawers of different sizes, possessed by multiple owners, over decades. The desk becomes a Jewish symbol for loss, survival, and, ultimately, spiritual reconstruction. Each section in the book is a story within a story, at times confusing, but subsequently, Great House is a triumph!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is incredibly written. I am an avid but very unemotional reader, and I got pretty emotional at several points. The characters all reveal great psychological truths about people and relationships. Several reviews express disappointment in the lack of a coherent story. This is true, but it is not the intention of the book to be a traditional novel with a linear plot. Get over it, because this book is awesome as soon as you do.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good book, I found it hard to follow at first, but I stayed with it, and finished reading it.
gettin_picky More than 1 year ago
I loved the way this book was written. It is a glimpse of the lives of several people whose lives have been changed by owning or encountering someone who owned the desk. This is not an uplifting book but I thought the way Nicole Krauss put the words together was beautiful. As some have said in their reviews, it is not a story where everything comes together at the end and is wrapped up with a pretty little bow. I am glad that it wasn't I am always disappointed when authors do that.
books_nooks More than 1 year ago
I read so many good things about this book; I really wanted to like it. In the end, I had to force myself to finish it. There are many authors who use what I refer to as "the back and forth" method of telling a story. That is, going back and forth between the past and present to tell a story. Kate Morton is an excellent example of this. This story was similar except that to me it seemed very disjointed. In fact, it wasn't until some time after I'd finished the book that I figured out the interrelationship of the stories. I really had to work at this to make all the pieces fall into place. Some of the back stories seemed to be boring and not necessarily supportive of the main theme. And, some parts just seemed down right incredulous. A guy shows up at your door that you don't know, and after several more visits, you calmly hand over your favorite desk? Please! i was expecting a lot from this book, and I ended up with very little.
mohair_suit 3 months ago
Nicole Krauss is truly an extraordinary writer. These stories are so vividly captivating that I find myself intermixing them with my own memories. Krauss can take the most mundane action and turn it into a beautiful symphony of metaphors and past memories. This novel is hauntingly memorizing, a piece of writing I find myself returning to each year. With each read, I am noticing more of the intricacies and genius of Krauss' ability to tie, at first seemingly unrelated, stories together. The stories themselves are poetic and wonderful, but the mysterious connections and near lack of connections, keeps the reader at bay and is part of the joy of reading this novel. It is not a mystery, but rather a story coming to fruition, waiting to be built, piece by piece through the reader's perception. I hope Krauss is working on another novel, otherwise I will continue rereading this and The History of Love over and over again, which quite frankly, I don't mind at all.
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I'm still trying to figure out which one of the stories was created by the narrator to get out of her writer's block! I'm writing this review a couple of years after reading the book, and it continues to haunt and enchant me. --catwak
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Thorne2112 More than 1 year ago
This novel follows a similar point of view format that History of Love did. It also goes to much darker places.
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