W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2010
Borrowed from the library. I did not finish this book.
I remember reading The History of Love a couple of years ago and enjoying it. I really wanted to love Great House, just because the idea of an author’s desk passing from one person to another seemed like a great premise.
This novel is actually a series of four stories following the lives of people who have hidden connections to each other. Some stories held me more than others. Krauss is a master of description and sometimes her words touched me deeply.
And yet you taught me something of death. Almost without my being aware of it, you smuggled the knowledge into me. Not long after you asked me whether you would die, I heard you talking aloud in the other room: When we die, you said, we’ll be hungry. A simple statement, and then you went on humming off-tune and pushing your little cars across the floor. But It stayed with me. It seemed to me that no one had ever summed up death quite like that: and unending state of longing with no hope of receiving. I was almost scared by the equanimity with which you faced something so abysmal. How you looked at it, turned it over in your mine as best you could, and found a form of clarity that allowed you to accept it. Maybe I’m ascribing too much meaning to the words of a three-year-old. But however accidental there was beauty in them: I live we sit at the table and refuse to eat, and in death we are eternally hungry. From pages 177/178.
There are many characters in Great House, and Krauss manages to bring voices to all of them. The stories are fragments, shards of a mirror, all reflecting the history of people’s lives, scattered across the globe from New York to London, Madrid to Jerusalem. Sadly none of the stories really grabbed me. I found myself skimming, something I find disconcerting when reading fiction, and after putting down and picking up the book several times, decided that I really had no desire to finish it. Maybe it was just bad timing.
Desire is what keeps me reading, wanting to know where a story leads, what happens to characters, likable or difficult, how multiple threads weave together in the end. If that desire fades I will give up on a book. There are just too many books out there and not enough time to read them all. I am sorry to say that Great House couldn’t hold me. I am interested in other opinions. If you read and reviewed this novel, please feel free to leave a link and I will add you to the review list.