October 2010 Indie Next List
— Ellen Burns, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT
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Summer 2012 Reading Group
— Ellen Burns, Books On The Common, Ridgefield, CT
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New York Times Bestseller • Finalist for the National Book Award • Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award • A Best Book of the Year as chosen by the New York Times (Notable), Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Atlantic, St. Louis Post Dispatch, The Oregonian, and Book Page.
"Masterful…Evocative and moving." —NPR
For twenty-five years, a reclusive American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young Chilean poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s secret police; one day a girl claiming to be the poet’s daughter arrives to take it away, sending the writer’s life reeling. Across the ocean, in the leafy suburbs of London, a man caring for his dying wife discovers, among her papers, a lock of hair that unravels a terrible secret. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer slowly reassembles his father’s study, plundered by the Nazis in Budapest in 1944.
Connecting these stories is a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or have given it away. As the narrators of Great House make their confessions, the desk takes on more and more meaning, and comes finally to stand for all that has been taken from them, and all that binds them to what has disappeared. Great House is a story haunted by questions: What do we pass on to our children and how do they absorb our dreams and losses? How do we respond to disappearance, destruction, and change?
Nicole Krauss has written a soaring, powerful novel about memory struggling to create a meaningful permanence in the face of inevitable loss.
"This is a novel about the long journey of a magnificent desk as it travels through the twentieth century from one owner to the next. It is also a novel about love, exile, the defilements of war, and the restorative power of language." —National Book Award citation
Praise For Great House: A Novel…
— Sam Tanenhaus
[Krauss] writes of her characters’ despair with striking lucidity…an eloquent dramatization of the need to find that missing piece that will give life its meaning.
— Sam Sacks
Ambitious, disturbing, brave, provocative.
— Joan Frank
Sweeps you up…beautiful and mysterious.
— Ann Harleman
Although most of her characters are prisoners of the past, Krauss herself is a fiction pioneer, toying with fresh ways of rendering experience and emotion, giving us readers the thrill of seeing the novel stretched into amorphous new shapes.
— Maureen Corrigan
Reminds us what it means to be alive.
— Rachel Rosenblit
A novel brimming with insights into the human psyche…often haunting and ultimately rewarding.
— Monica Rhor
Delayed revelation is one of the author’s signatures, and in this, her third novel, she manages it with satisfying élan…Krauss’s organic scenes soar, she is stunning.
— Karen R. Long
Exquisite…Krauss is a poetic stylist whose prose gives tremendous weight to her characters’ pain and struggles.
— Sharon Dilworth
Krauss has a unique way of assembling novels—baroque, complex, and with stunning tidiness that isn’t clear until the very last page. All the parts do fit together in the end. The shape they form is the ghastly Great House, and its walls are ideas that leave the reader reverberating.
A complex, richly imagined new novel…Krauss’s talent runs deep. And she cannot write a bad sentence: pound for pound, the sentences alone deliver epiphany upon epiphany.
— Janet Byrne
Krauss’ masterful rendition of character is breathtaking, compelling.… This tour de force of fiction writing will deeply satisfy fans of the author’s first two books and bring her legions more.
Stunning…I was captivated by the first chapter and never disappointed thereafter. The richness of invention, the beauty of the prose, the aptness of her central images, the depth of feeling: who would not be moved?
— Andrea Barrett
Full of cogent insights…an exercise in kaleidoscopic storytelling, a novel that seeks to weave four groups of characters into a larger meditation on memory and loss.
— David L. Ulin
W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393340648, 304pp.
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
The large and imposing desk in the novel is passed from life to life, moving through space and time to link the characters in the novel to one another and to the past. What does this inheritance represent for each? Is it a burden?
A sense of loss—of a child, a parent, a lover, a home, youth, an illusion, and so many other things—suffuses the novel. How do the characters respond to loss, destruction, and change?
The novel is composed of intimate and emotional monologues that each have the tone of a confession. What do Nadia, or Arthur, or Aaron feel themselves to be guilty of? What role does judgment play in the novel?
Many of the characters are haunted by doubt or uncertainty, whether it’s moral doubt, self-doubt, or the doubt that comes with a realization of the limits of how fully known we can ever be to one another, of how often we must live unknown and unknowing. What is the nature of Nadia’s doubt, as expressed in the question that afflicts her: What if I had been wrong? What kind of uncertainty did Arthur feel in his marriage? And Aaron, as a father? What about Yoav and Leah Weisz?
Why do you think Lotte chose to give her child away? And why did Nadia choose to give up children, her marriage, a social life—everything but her solitude? What other kinds of sacrifices do the characters make?
What role does regret play in the novel?
What is the significance of the locked and empty desk drawer?
How does the story of Ben Zakkai and the destruction of Jerusalem—a response to catastrophic loss that led to a radical reinvention of Judaism that allowed it to survive in the Diaspora—relate to the rest of the novel?