The Hundred-Year House

The Hundred-Year House

by Rebecca Makkai
3.2 11


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The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

The acclaimed author of The Borrower returns with a dazzlingly original, mordantly witty novel about the secrets of an old-money family and their turn-of-the-century estate, Laurelfield.

“Rebecca Makkai is a writer to watch, as sneakily ambitious as she is unpretentious."
Richard Russo
Meet the Devohrs: Zee, a Marxist literary scholar who detests her parents’ wealth but nevertheless finds herself living in their carriage house; Gracie, her mother, who claims she can tell your lot in life by looking at your teeth; and Bruce, her step-father, stockpiling supplies for the Y2K apocalypse and perpetually late for his tee time. Then there’s Violet Devohr, Zee’s great-grandmother, who they say took her own life somewhere in the vast house, and whose massive oil portrait still hangs in the dining room.

Violet’s portrait was known to terrify the artists who resided at the house from the 1920s to the 1950s, when it served as the Laurelfield Arts Colony—and this is exactly the period Zee’s husband, Doug, is interested in. An out-of-work academic whose only hope of a future position is securing a book deal, Doug is stalled on his biography of the poet Edwin Parfitt, once in residence at the colony. All he needs to get the book back on track—besides some motivation and self-esteem—is access to the colony records, rotting away in the attic for decades. But when Doug begins to poke around where he shouldn’t, he finds Gracie guards the files with a strange ferocity, raising questions about what she might be hiding. The secrets of the hundred-year house would turn everything Doug and Zee think they know about her family on its head—that is, if they were to ever uncover them.

In this brilliantly conceived, ambitious, and deeply rewarding novel, Rebecca Makkai unfolds a generational saga in reverse, leading the reader back in time on a literary scavenger hunt as we seek to uncover the truth about these strange people and this mysterious house. With intelligence and humor, a daring narrative approach, and a lovingly satirical voice, Rebecca Makkai has crafted an unforgettable novel about family, fate and the incredible surprises life can offer.

For readers of Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525426684
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/10/2014
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Rebecca Makkai’s first novel, The Borrower, was a Booklist Top Ten Debut, an Indie Next pick, and an O Magazine selection. Her short fiction has appeared in Harper’sTin HousePloughshares, and New England Review, and has been selected four times for The Best American Short Stories. The recipient of a 2014 NEA Fellowship, she lives in Chicago and Vermont.

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The Hundred-Year House 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
Rebecca Makkai's The Hundred-Year House is my favorite book of 2014 thus far. It's hard to characterize; Makkai's beautiful prose and sensitive exploration of human relationships place it squarely in the literary fiction camp, but what drives it, and keeps the reader madly turning the pages, is a series of mysteries within mysteries centering upon, among other things, the fates of an obscure poet and a painting of oak leaves. The story regresses through time in four sections (1999, 1955, 1929, and 1900), with each new section revealing secrets which dramatically alter the reader's understanding of the previous (but later) sections. Most of Makkai's characters are eccentric academics or artists, as befit a house which has spent much of its century-long existence as an artist colony, and some of her descriptions are equally colorful: "The Devohrs weren't people so much as sea turtles that laid their eggs and then crawled back to the ocean, not particularly invested in meeting their progeny ever again." "[H]e'd spent the war years scooping up young widows like candy from a piñata." "In the morning he was like a small, clean snowball - one that would roll downhill all day, picking up rocks and darkness and growing enormous and sharp." That last simile - what a perfect description of an alcoholic, abusive husband! I am not a re-reader (there are just too many new books out there calling my name), but I was mighty tempted to go right back to the beginning and start again, to see how my reading experience would change now that I know at least some of the house's secrets. I am confident that The Hundred-Year House will reward repeat readers with an even deeper satisfaction; if you haven't bought a copy yet, what are you waiting for? I received a free copy of The Hundred-Year House through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Margitte More than 1 year ago
Captivating unbelievably suspenseful read! The book started out as a short story about male anorexia. The author have no idea what the hell happened next, and neither do I, sorry to say ! The first woman, Violet Saville Devohr, to step over the threshold of Laurelfield, understood the meaning of doors when she said to her husband: “You may shut me in, but I can shut you out. There are two sides to every door, Augustus.” And then she proceeded to commit suicide by her own rules. She defined the rest of the mansion's story as a painting hanging over the mantelpiece, being a constant reminder of what the gracious old house had to witness and endure. Narrative: Brilliant! Language: Brilliant! Characterization: Brilliant! Sadly, way too many characters and none of them lovable. Theme: Mmmmm......messy but a great idea; Plot: Confusing - too many sub plots; How the plot, characters and setting relate to reality: Excellent. Entertaining Outstanding! Detail: Outstanding! HOWEVER: I did feel the last two periods, 1929, 1900 - messy and chaotic, were more a form of information-dumping, to enhance the plot. It was as though the story lacked validation and needed this information to make sense, but it did not initially fitted into the main story in the first period, 1999. It was therefore added as an urgent, yet messy, after-thought. Did not work for me. The inverted chronology might define this book, as is evident from all the attention it receives, but I did not like it. Neither did I appreciate the end landing in the middle of the book. Still, what a captivating unbelievably suspenseful read! The story caught me from the get-go and had me reading non-stop until the end. I did want to end it all into the second half, though but kept going. Optimism and hope it is called. I won't pursue another book written in this style, though. It was just too confusing. For a club read: excellent! I do consider reading the book again to understand its deeper nuances and hidden plots better. I want to. Was it worth my time? Yes. The prose was outstanding. I will read the author again. She's good with words.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am 2/3 of the way through this book and will not waste any more time on it. It has a ridiculous plot, overly melodramatic, with not a single likeable character.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed how this story was told. (but won't give anything away). Didn't want to put the book down until I figured out more about the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Made it half way through. This was like several books written by several authors. Disjointed; neither plot nor character driven. I usually muddle through no matter how poorly writen a book is. This was exceptionally bad.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Every time i think i know whats going on in this book a new time frame starts and i am completely baffeled! Almost done, and once again in a new time frame, and completely confussed! I am pretty sure its a good book ....but exhausted trying to understand whats going on....and who the players are! I just hope i "get it" by the last page! Could be a 5 star book ........
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really thought I was going to enjoy this book. Ghosts and family secrets sounded like a very promising, enjoyable read. However, I was very disappointed. For me, personally, characters are paramount; I need the characters to be likable, I want to enjoy and care about whats going on with them. The characters in this book are atrociously written. I couldn't relate or like any character within this story. I would describe this book as being very dry, sometimes cringe worthy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Written in reverse chronological order. More nuances were gained when going back and re-reading sections - if you have the time or inclination to do so.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago