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The House of Breath Paperback – July 30, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 191 pages
  • Publisher: Triquarterly; 1 edition (July 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810150670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810150676
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #670,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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This book deserves to be rediscovered.
I. Sondel
Goyen uses the most mesmerizing, lush descriptive prose to magically and brilliantly conjour up a sense of time and place.
T. BRANNEY
It is very difficult to get into because of the thick prose-poetry.
adorian

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By I. Sondel VINE VOICE on December 7, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was reading about this book in "Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote." In a June 14, 1950 letter to Goyen, Capote wrote: "I feel, not unaccountably, as though I'd had a nearly religious experience. Dear God, Bill, I wept, trembled, and as I turned the final page I might have frozen from the chill along my spine. It is a novel of unearthly beauty!...." Well, based on these and a few other comments I ordered the book.

This truly is like no other book I've ever read. It is a wonderfully articulated prose novel. This is the story of a house and the family that once lived there. Each member of the family gives an accounting of events and secrets and feelings. The story Berryben tells is especially moving - "All I know is that there was a change in me and, discovering that change in me, I would do anything to keep it unchanged, I would not let it die in me." The story of Christy and Otey is heartbreaking.

This isn't an easy book to read. The story isn't told in a linear fashion. It's full of long, languorous passages of incredible beauty. I was reminded at times of both Virginia Woolf and Capote. This book deserves to be rediscovered.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By T. BRANNEY on August 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
'The House Of Breath' reads like a sacred text, as they turn the pages the reader feels like they are blowing the dust from a casket of long hidden jewels.
Narrated by a man returning after a prolonged absence to his long abandoned family home in Charity (a small, river-bound Texas town) the book invokes the ghosts of the past to tell the tales of desire, loss & melancholy that make up the (largely secret) history of that family.
Weaving a dizzy spell over all is the richly evoked river delta landscape. Goyen uses the most mesmerizing, lush descriptive prose to magically and brilliantly conjour up a sense of time and place. The overall effect is like living through a waking dream. You choose to read slowly to soak up the atmosphere and prolong the poetic experience:
"(the river) was ornamented with big drowsy snapturtles sitting like figurines on rocks; had little jeweled perch in it and sliding cottenmouth water moccasins. It crawled, croaking with bullfrogs and ticking and sucking and clucking and shining..."
Comparable to Cormac McCarthy at his most lyrical, readers of Calvino, Banville, Flannery O'Connor & Faulkner amongst others, will swoon over this southern masterpiece.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Scot Montague (smontagu@post.smu.edu) on September 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
A simple story of reflection and rememberance, The House of Breath is a remarkable, evocative and poignant recollection of a youth's life in the house where the tumult of childhood is remembered. The narrative has passages that are as beautiful as any ever written. Numerous readings can only make these passages more stirring to your soul.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Northrop on February 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is about returning to one's hometown, when the people and the times have changed, but the memories and the events seem to still be in the air. The novel is written in a very unusual, abstract style - reminiscent of Virginia Woolf, in my opinion. Though this style is meant to invoke the feeling of being in this tiny, dusty, country town where people are simple and humble, I found the dialogue difficult to get through.

The text was ambitious and almost a character in itself because it brought the reader into the atmosphere of the town of Charity. However, I found the text was trying SO hard to show its "anti-eloquence" that it became very cumbersome and practically impossible to get through in places. For instance, "standin by the speckled yellow canna...jest at sixteen in your sateen blouze that I worked orange curlimakews in." Furthermore, there are many run-on sentences with so many random points mentioned in the one sentence - by the time I finished the sentence, I wasn't sure how it had started.

In the edition that I have, there is an afterword by Reginald Gibbons which praises the book for lack of character development and central plot and "uncertainty of narrative identity." However, while these aspects made the book interesting and unique, I thought it also made it the book cryptic and confusing. I wasn't able to get a good grasp on the characters and often, I wasn't sure which one was talking.

Overall, the book does use language and narration in an unusual way - it was just not my style, but I'm glad I explored it anyway.
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