Review: Great House

Cover of "Great House: A Novel"

Cover of Great House: A Novel

The time has come, the Walrus said, to write my first ambivalent review.

You know how each year, there are those books that “everyone” loves? Remember when it was The Corrections: A Novel, to choose a well-known example? Well, in the past few years, one of those books was written by Nicole Krauss, and it was called The History of Love.

And I didn’t like it very much. I still feel weird saying that aloud, but I just didn’t. It was too….modern? Too disjointed in its narrative? Too idea-driven? And it isn’t that she was too pretentious, because I didn’t know that yet (the “last real American childhood” in your Olmsted-designed garden? Really?).

But “everyone” loved it, so I was willing to give her second book, Great House: A Novel , a fair shot (especially since I got my copy for free from a dear friend who often gives me her book overflow). This time, I found more to appreciate, like her use of verbs in new and unusual ways, that make them seem both fresh and inevitable. The story follows a large wooden desk as it travels between different owners, each of whom takes a turn on the novel’s stage and delivers his or her own impassioned monologue. There were some really powerful passages that have left more of an impression on me than Krauss’ entire previous novel did, and some really heartbreaking turns and twists from the different narrators, especially the older man who discovers a shattering secret kept by his dead wife.

However. I still did not really enjoy it too much; the book jumps from voice to voice in what seemed to me an unpleasantly fractured and disjointed way. I did not always know who was talking, and it took me too long to figure it out each time, which prevented me from becoming fully immersed in that particular stream of consciousness. I think in the end, I wanted to like the book more than I actually did, as the sum of its parts did not add up to a memorable or enjoyable whole.  Maybe it’s just a style-chemistry thing, and admittedly, I’m not always on board for the truly post-modern, cutting-edge, avant-garde, pick-your-jargon kind of fiction. Maybe you’re thinking, “Hey, that sounds right up my alley!”

If so, I’ve got a nice hardback copy I could give you.  I don’t think I’ll be needing it again.

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3 Comments

Filed under Fiction, reviews

3 responses to “Review: Great House

  1. Yes, I know what you mean. I’ve had some recent book disappointments like that as well. Everyone’s been raving about Katherine Stockett’s ‘The Help’ and I just couldn’t get into it. It was all written in a Southern accent . . . ? I get speaking in a Southern accent, but writing it that way too is just weird.

    • Trish, “disappointment” is exactly right–when my expectations are so high, I am even more disappointed than I am when I read a run-of-the-mill book I don’t particularly like. In the past, when I was disappointed by a very popular or renowned book, I would read it at least one more time, to see if I could figure it out (I read “Catcher in the Rye” three times as a teenager). But now that I’m more aware of my own tastes and preferences, I’m less willing to give a book a second chance. I still am pretty committed to finishing every book I start, but sometimes, a book just languishes anyway.

  2. I’m sorry you’re not a Nicole Krauss fan. I personally love her writing style. But that’s the great thing about books – there’s different styles and genres for everyone’s tastes.

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