An American novelist who for twenty-five years has held on to the furniture and memory of young Chilean poet who has disappeared at the hands of Pinochet's secret police. An elderly Israeli man who has just lost his wife and has reconnected with his estranged son. A professor in London who has just lost his wife and discovered a secret that she hid for fifty years. An antiques dealer who is slowly putting back together his father's study which was plundered by the Nazis.
All of these people are connected by one solitary item - an enormous wooden desk with nineteen drawers. But for those whose lives it has passed through it is more than just a piece of furniture, it is a symbol of the memories and loss that has permeated their lives.
Great House by Nicole Krauss explores the ways in which we attempt to hold on to the past and how it affects our present. Each characters story is written in the form of a short story with the desk tying them all together.
The reviews on this book are mixed, people seem to either really love it or hate it. As I write this, I'm still not sure how I feel about the book. This book is the first of Krauss' that I have read and I was very impressed with her writing. There were so many times that I was struck by the beauty of the words that I was reading.
But the book felt more like a collection of short stories. Each story on its own could have held up beautifully and powerfully. They didn't need to be tied together, and the way in which they are, well I personally felt like it was working against the reader until the very end. I think I was busy looking deeper into the relationship than I needed to be and ended up missing some of the more important themes.
What encouraged me to move past the negatives of this book was the beauty of Krauss' writing. She painted incredible pictures with her words and the writing flowed well. For me this is enough to make the book worth the read.
Thank you to Penguin Books for providing me with a copy of this book. The opinions expressed above are purely my own and I received no compensation for them.