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
This stunning work showcases Krauss's consistent talent. The novel consists of four stories divided among eight chapters, all touching on themes of loss and recovery, and anchored to a massive writing desk that resurfaces among numerous households, much to the bewilderment and existential tension of those in its orbit, among them a lonely American novelist clinging to the memory of a poet who has mysteriously vanished in Chile, an old man in Israel facing the imminent death of his wife of 51 years, and an esteemed antiques dealer tracking down the things stolen from his father by the Nazis. Much like in Krauss's The History of Love, 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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This book kept me entertained, but I am disappointed by the ending. Some of the characters are underdeveloped and the conclusion of the plot remains a mystery. The story had such great potential....I am sorry it did not end better!
Disappointing. Multiple stories very disjointed. Many threads not resolved. I kept reading and hoping for clarification but characters and actions seemed just bizarre. Not my taste at all.
The Great House
It is a complex, woven tale that links now with then, with people who age and yearn and sometimes despair. Writers ply their craft but slide past those who would care for them and puzzle when they in turn are abandoned. A large desk changes hands but remains an anchor to many. It remains immutable while the people search on.
I was allowed to journey with the author, who took me on the adventure with ill-concealed satisfaction. I loved the ride.