From the internationally best-selling author of The History of Love comes this stunning novel. Great House follows the multiple owners of one writing desk and how the desk shapes their lives. A young novelist inherited the desk from a poet taken by Pinochet’s police. Then the desk is stolen from her by the poet’s supposed daughter. In its drawers, another man discovers a long-kept secret about his wife. And a Jerusalem antiques dealer uses the desk in his family’s study, which was devastated by the Nazis in 1944.
In Great House, Nicole Krauss weaves together the stories of five different families, each of whom, at some point, owns or uses the same wooden desk. The desk is passed down, left behind, lost and found but it’s not the only thing the characters have in common: they’re also tied together by human threads of loss, disillusionment, grief, and passion. Five different narrators read alternate sections, giving voice to men and women whose lives intersect in very different ways.
The five short pieces All Rise, True Kindness, Swimming Holes, Lies Told by Children, and Weisz are narrated respectively by Alma Cuervo, George Guidall, Robert McKenzie, Celeste Ciulla, and Paul Hecht. Each narrator puts his or her own style into the text: Cuervo’s thoughtful writer recollects her relationship with a poet who left the desk in her care; Guidall’s sharply-voiced father pines for a relationship with his adult son; McKenzie’s elegant widower discovers a long-held secret about his dead wife and the desk she was so attached to; Ciulla describes her relationship with a pair of siblings under the control of a powerful parent; and Hecht gives life to a man on a lifelong quest to recreate the most important moment of his childhood. Every one of them brings individual pacing, tone, and emphasis to the main and secondary characters, turning the vignettes into a cohesive whole. Great House, which was just nominated for a National Book Award, isn’t a plot-heavy novel, but Krauss’ writing is delicate and haunting, with a lyrical, poignant style that the narrators focus into emotional journeys through each character’s past and present. Blythe Copeland
"This stunning work showcases Krauss's consistent talent.... 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. (Publishers Weekly)
“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, Elle)
“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.” (Booklist, Starred Review)
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Beautiful writing, but probably better to read it