Great House by Nicole Krauss

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Great House by Nicole Krauss

Denna diskussion är för närvarande "vilande"—det sista inlägget är mer än 90 dagar gammalt. Du kan återstarta det genom att svara på inlägget.

1kidzdoc
maj 14, 2011, 11:51 am

This thread is for discussion of Great House. I'll read it in the next week or two.

2Soupdragon
maj 14, 2011, 11:57 am

I have just finished Great House. This was my first Nicole Krauss and I was blown away by the beauty and elegance of her writing. Not recommended for those who like a linear plot and for everything to be tied up neatly at the end though!

The Memory of Love is still my favourite to win but I think Great House would hold up to several re-readings which could help endear it to the judges.

3Citizenjoyce
maj 15, 2011, 2:52 am

Here's my review, not a very good one. I did like the book very much, 5 stars though the review doesn't look like it:

Using a desk to symbolize the soul of Judaism, Nicole Krauss writes about post holocaust Jews living in Europe and Israel, their suffering, their lack of emotional connection, their overly emotional connections, and their attempt to adjust to human life after living through inhumane times.

4Soupdragon
Redigerat: maj 15, 2011, 12:46 pm

I think you understood Great House better than I did, Joyce. I am adding my more confused review anyway!

"Great House is an unusually structured novel probably best approached as four loosely connected stories. The stories are set in New York, Israel and London over different decades but each is told in the first person by a character who is Jewish and/or discussing their relationship with a Jewish wife or son.

Krauss expresses the inner lives of her characters with astonishing beauty and elegance. Each is struggling to connect in some way. In New York, novelist Nadia has started to wonder if her ability to be entirely self-contained is the advantage she's always thought.
A father in Israel looks back at his difficult relationship with his son, Dov. In childhood Dov was an intense, highly strung boy whose father found difficult to understand and sometimes behaved brutally towards. I found this section uncomfortable reading but psychologically convincing. I have known boys like Dov and men like his father! In London, Arthur has always struggled to communicate deeply with his refugee wife. After her death he tries to uncover mysteries from her past in an attempt to finally understand her. Then there is the strange story of Weisz who has a career in returning lost pieces of furniture to those who have lost them.

As anyone who has heard anything about this book will already know, the book features a desk. Three of the characters have been in possession of the desk at some point. A mistake that I made was to believe that this would eventually lead to a full history of the desk. It didn't! However there is a conclusion of sorts: one that was weak on plausibility and strong on symbolism. There was a certain power to it but personally I found it fell short of being completely satisfying. A reader with a better knowledge of Jewish history may well appreciate it more!

Despite these issues, I loved this book for Krauss's prose and her ability to reach the very core of her characters."

5Citizenjoyce
maj 15, 2011, 4:18 pm

Looks to me like you you derstood it just fine, Soupdragon. It's a good review.

6judylou
maj 17, 2011, 9:54 pm

This was one of those books that is difficult to explain in words. But it was just lovely to read.

7rebeccanyc
jun 2, 2011, 11:01 am

I just discovered this thread; Great House was one of my favorite reads of last year. Here's what I wrote in my review at the time.

So much suffering. So much death. So many secrets. So many tormented souls. If it were not for Krauss's beautiful and diamond-sharp writing, this stunning novel about loss, deception, grief, and memory would be just too sad to read.

Four different characters narrate the different sections of this novel; each is damaged in some way, either through the traumas of his or her own life or psychology or through loving another character, a character who has turned inward, hiding his or her true self from the world. There are connections among them, largely through a massive pre-World War II desk, but Krauss leaves it to the reader to figure everything out; we do not know more than the characters themselves most of the time.

It is really impossible to describe the plot, such as it is, of this novel, without giving too much away, but it is notable that so many of the characters are writers, or aspiring writers, people who for the most part find this alternative world more welcoming than the real one. The Holocaust's savage separation of the past from the present slices through the heart of Great House. but so does the sense of loss inherent in Jewish history going back 2000 or more years. The novel is intense and convoluted, and gives up its secrets slowly.

There are many, many beautiful examples of Krauss's ability to capture the emotional heart of the moment in her writing, but one that stands out for me, and perhaps says a lot about Great House itself, occurs when an Israeli father thinks about what to say to his wife who fears she cannot go on if one (or both) of their two sons, soldiers, are killed in the 1973 war. "Either I could have said, You will go on, or I could have said, We will not lose them." We lose everyone, but we go on.

8Soupdragon
jun 2, 2011, 11:06 am

A stunning review, Rebecca. Not an easy book to do justice to but you managed it!

9rebeccanyc
jun 3, 2011, 8:27 am

Thank you, Soupdragon. The book made a tremendous impression on me, and I thought a lot about what to write.

10kidzdoc
jun 3, 2011, 8:29 am

Thanks for re-posting your review, Rebecca. I'll probably read it this weekend.

11judylou
jun 4, 2011, 3:50 am

Great review!

12nancyewhite
jun 16, 2011, 1:42 pm

I'm in the middle of Great House. It is stunningly beautiful and I like it, but it feels like an intellectual exercise to me while The Memory of Love felt more tangible and real.

Perhaps I mean that Great House is trying to say something while The Memory of Love is actually saying something.

I like them both and look forward to the second part of Great House. Your reviews have helped me to look more deeply into the book and consider Krauss's intention differently than I would have otherwise.

13nancyewhite
jun 18, 2011, 7:57 am

OK, so I finished it. I liked this but I'm not at all sure whether I loved it. Krauss writes beautifully and it felt like she was truth-telling (which is very important to me), but I also felt her authorial presence in it the whole time. It sometimes seemed a little like an exercise rather than stories in which I could lose myself. None of the characters seemed completely real to me, but that may have been her intention.

I'm just not sure about this one. I think I may need to let it steep a little while and see if it ends up resonating with time. Please don't take my odd ambivalence as any indication not to read this book. It is very much worth reading for the exquisite descriptions and for its ideas and just to see for yourself what all of the fuss is about.

14mrstreme
jun 18, 2011, 12:31 pm

Good to know, Nancy. I will probably be starting Room later today.

15rainpebble
jun 25, 2011, 1:33 pm

I too, am halfway through the book, having begun it last evening. I am liking it very much thus far. Each 'part' is ending too quickly for me though. I want more out of each piece.
I do like the writing of Nicole Krauss. I think that for this particular book, she gives us just enough information about each character, though I would like more. I guess I am greedy. I always want more but I think she has done it just right.
@ Soup and Rebecca; really nice reviews ladies.

16rainpebble
jun 25, 2011, 9:21 pm

I just finished the monologue between the father and Dov. How very lovely. Oh, how very lovely.

17rainpebble
Redigerat: jul 3, 2011, 1:24 pm

Having just completed Great House, my review is simply one word: WOW!~! Loved it! (oh, that is three)
A fascinating book that in no way ends as one expects.
I hope those of you reading it appreciate it as much as I did. A one day read .............. I couldn't put it down. It could be my highlight for Orange July even though it was my first read. A solid 5 stars with an A-1 rec.
belva

18mrstreme
jul 7, 2011, 7:28 pm

Like Belva, I was moved by Great House too. Here's my review.

19rainpebble
jul 7, 2011, 11:06 pm

Really nice review Jill. I thumbs upped you. I got Great House from the library but I know that one day I will have to purchase my own copy as I think that this is one of those books that one will get something new and fresh from each time he/she reads it.

20LizzieD
okt 28, 2012, 6:56 pm

I just finished Great House and came over to see what other people thought. I can't say that I loved or liked it exactly, but I do think that it's a very good book. (I go on with the verys over on my 75 thread.) I think that it's closer to being a winner than The Tiger's Wife. Nancy in post 13 hit the nail on the head for me. I always felt the author's presence - not a bad thing, but it confirms for me the reason that more writers don't try to pull this kind of thing off.

21kidzdoc
feb 5, 2013, 8:55 am

Here's my review of Great House:

My rating:

"I inherited it {the desk} from the former owner of the house. And I began to think about how I hated this desk. I wished I could get rid of it, and yet something in me wouldn't allow for that. It'd be a waste. You'd have to chop it up to get it down the stairs. It was built into the room and all that. So I began to think about this idea of the burden of inheritance. Now as I said at the same time I was a new mother, and of course I wasn't writing about furniture, I wasn't writing about physical objects really. I think what I thinking about was the idea of what is it that our parents pass down to us emotionally in terms of moods, griefs, sadnesses, angles at which we view and face the world and what then do we pass down often unknowingly to our children. This became a subject of great intense importance to me as I was facing the idea of bringing up my own child."

     —Excerpt from Conversation: Nicole Krauss' 'Great House', PBS NewsHour, October 22, 2010

This difficult but brilliant and affecting novel consists of four sets of disparate characters, who all share a direct or obscure connection to a writing desk, which is imposing and overwhelming in size and filled with secret drawers and odd features, yet intensely memorable and deeply comforting to those who have possessed it.

The 'Great House' of the title refers to the school built by the 1st century rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai after the destruction of Jerusalem during the First Jewish-Roman War, in which Judaic law and religion was re-established:

Two thousand years have passed, my father used to tell me, and now every Jewish soul is built around the house that burned in that fire, so vast that we can, each one of us, only recall the tiniest fragment: a pattern on the wall, a knot in the wood of a door, a memory of how light fell across the floor. But if every Jewish memory were put together, every last holy fragment joined up again as one, the House would be built again, said Weisz, or rather a memory of the House so perfect that it would be, in essence, the original itself.

Great House consists of two parts, with four chapters for the four stories in each part, followed by a short chapter at the end of Part II that helps link the characters together. In the first chapter, "All Rise", a middle aged woman speaks to a judge about her life as a writer, her failed relationship with her husband due to her need for solitude and devotion to her work in exclusion of him, and how she came to acquire the desk, and to give it away. "True Kindness" is an emotional and internal plea by an old man to his estranged child after the death of the man's wife in Israel, one filled with intense hatred, bitterness and love. In "Swimming Holes", an Englishman recalls his long term marriage to his eastern European Jewish wife, who emigrated to the UK at the onset of World War II and withheld her past life and its secrets from him until the end of her life. Finally, "Lies Told By Children" is narrated by an American woman who studies at Oxford, where she meets and falls in love with another student, a rootless young man who is crippled and fortified by his intimate connection with his sister and his overbearing father.

Each of the major characters in the novel share a need for solitude and an inability to establish trust with the person who is most dear to them. Unrequited love is the necessary result, along with grief and regret for what was lost to them. Past memories resurface frequently, which are generally unpleasant and only add to the characters' loneliness and despair.

Great House requires substantial attention and work by the reader to connect the characters to each other, which seemed to me as though I was trying to build a single puzzle from pieces from four different puzzles mixed together and scattered in different rooms of a large house. I suspect that the novel may hold different meanings for each reader, based on their own histories and experiences, and that a second reading of the book would be rewarding and enlightening. It is a beautifully written book, whose characters deeply touched me, and I am tempted to immediately start reading it again to find those missing pieces.

22rainpebble
feb 6, 2013, 12:56 am

Great review Darryl. And congratulations on your hot review for it. Very well deserved.