Great House

Great House

by Nicole Krauss


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Great House by Nicole Krauss

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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393340648
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/06/2011
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 289
Sales rank: 374,991
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About 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 Man Walks Into a Room, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year; The History of Love, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Saroyan Prize for International Literature; Great House, a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award; and Forest Dark. In 2007 she was selected as one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists, and in 2010 she was chosen for the New Yorker’s ‘Twenty Under Forty’ list. Her fiction has been published in the New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire, and Best American Short Stories, and her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. Nicole Krauss lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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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 More than 1 year 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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