Great House, Nicole Krauss, W W Norton & Company, 2010, 289 pp
Nicole Krauss is one author I wish wrote more novels because I enjoy reading her so much. Yet for some reason I have not ever read her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room (2002), which I must remedy right away. And I did not get around to Great House until it was picked by one of my reading groups. Her second novel, The History of Love (2005), was one of my best loved novels ever. I feel a bit abashed for allowing novels of much less quality to crowd out Ms Krauss. It is almost as bad a watching TV instead of reading.
Much has been made of the desk in Great House and it is pivotal to the structure of the novel. In fact, the structure confounded me and several other members of the reading group. Like blind people trying to describe an elephant, we talked among ourselves until we got it mostly figured out.
I wasn't bothered by a persistent feeling of confusion while I read because I like a novel that requires the reader to so some of the work. I wasn't too concerned about how and when the desk went here and there, because the sheer power of the narrative kept me reading closely and as rapidly as I could, wanting to savor the prose but wanting even more to know and understand the characters.
Another odd facet was that not one of the ten or so characters was exactly admirable, though somehow they were all sympathetic. Because of that, the story's somewhat fantastic elements were outweighed by what felt like reality. People suffer and thus lose hold of what makes them admirable. They survive doing whatever holds them together and once in a while achieve understanding and even happiness.
I think that is pretty true to the way life is. My personal discovery while reading Great House was that I expect people to be admirable, including myself, but the best of us have flaws and the worst of us have good reasons.
Great House is a great book.
(Great House is available in paperback on the shelf and in hardcover as well as eBook by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)