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Great House: A Novel Paperback – September 6, 2011
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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.
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."âNational Book Award citation
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This is a superbly written book with deliciously lengthy paragraphs of gorgeous prose.
The story is intricately interwoven across time and continents, and may be a little difficult at times to follow, but I encourage the discerning reader to persevere and enjoy the journey.
This is a book which will leave the reader wanting more- I know I haven't read a book as beautifully written as this in a long time.
A desk seems to be the only consistent thread, described "...like some sort of grotesque, threatening monster..." its 19 randomly placed and sized drawers standing in for the characters of the story. There is one locked drawer whose contents remains a mystery, and its character a mystical puppeteer who moves the desk from attic to living room to warehouse in route to that character's final purpose.
Don't worry: You will finish Great House. Krauss, like the locked drawer, propels you inescapably along until you discover the secret of the desk. The desk: A metaphor for the Great House, which in turn is a metaphor itself.
That said, Nicole Krauss has written about some of the effects the Holocaust caused in Jewish lives during and after the horror. Tracing the history of an imposing writing desk (that was originally preserved by a survivor), the desk hovers over the internal turmoil of the characters who subsequently come to temporarily own and write at the desk. The narrators have all been affected by the difficult times, and the stories are filtered through their eyes and memories. Some of the stories are unresolved, but that's what chaos leaves behind.