Great House (Paperback)

A Novel

By Nicole Krauss

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393340648, 304pp.

Publication Date: September 6, 2011

Other Editions of This Title:
Compact Disc (10/12/2010)
Hardcover (10/12/2010)
Compact Disc (1/1/2010)
Hardcover (2/1/2011)
Hardcover, Large Print, Large Print (1/1/2011)
Paperback (4/1/2012)
Paperback (4/1/2011)

List Price: 14.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

October 2010 Indie Next List

“The best books haunt and sometimes confuse you. They will make you think, feel, wonder, go back to earlier chapters, and finally, fully experience the story being told. Nicole Krauss's new book does just that and more. This powerful novel contains multiple stories of loves lost, families torn apart, and secrets kept and revealed. The suffering of many in Nazi Germany, in Pinochet's Chile, and those seeking a new life in Israel are woven together by the narrative thread of a stolen desk. This is a powerful book that will leave you reeling.”
— Ellen Burns, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT
View the List

Summer 2012 Reading Group

“The best books haunt and sometimes confuse you. They will make you think, feel, wonder, go back to earlier chapters, and finally, fully experience the story being told. Nicole Krauss's new book does just that and more. This powerful novel contains multiple stories of loves lost, families torn apart, and secrets kept and revealed. The suffering of many in Nazi Germany, in Pinochet's Chile, and those seeking a new life in Israel are woven together by the narrative thread of a stolen desk. This is a powerful book that will leave you reeling.”
— Ellen Burns, Books On The Common, Ridgefield, CT
View the List

Description

Finalist for the 2010 National Book Award in Fiction

Winner of the 2011 ABA Indies Choice Honor Award in Fiction

Winner of the 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Award

Shortlisted for the 2011 Orange Prize in Fiction



A powerful, soaring novel about a stolen desk that contains the secrets, and becomes the obsession, of the lives it passes through.


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


About the Author

Nicole Krauss has been hailed by the New York Times as "one of America’s most important novelists." She is the author of Man Walks Into a Room, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year; The History of Love, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Saroyan Prize for International Literature; Great House, a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award; and Forest Dark. In 2007 she was selected as one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists, and in 2010 she was chosen for the New Yorker’s ‘Twenty Under Forty’ list. Her fiction has been published in the New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire, and Best American Short Stories, and her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. Nicole Krauss lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Praise For Great House: A Novel

[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

Starred Review. 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.

While her prior, much-vaunted novel, The History of Love, was certainly fresh and winning, Great House strikes me as a richer, more seasoned exploration of the themes and images that bedevil Krauss… Krauss’ sentences are so beautiful, rendered in such simple, clear language, I had to stop to reread many.
— Joan Frank

Krauss can do just about anything she wants with the English language.
— Ann Harleman

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

The most heartbreaking part of Great House, the third novel by Nicole Krauss, is having to finish it…As the mysteries of this beautifully written novel come spooling out, you’ll marvel at how profoundly one brilliantly crafted metaphor involving a mute wooden artifact can remind 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

Krauss’ organic scenes soar, she is stunning.
— Karen R. Long

Surely if there is one book each author is meant to write, then there might also be one book each reader is meant to read. For plenty of fans out there, Great House just might be that book.

Exquisite…Krauss is a poetic stylist whose prose gives tremendous weight to her characters’ pain and struggles.
— Sharon Dilworth

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 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.
— Jennie Rothenberg Gritz

Artlessly lovely… the pleasure of reading this book is in its details, its intimation of sincerity, its quiet wisdom.
— Yevgeniya Traps

[A] brave new novel…[Krauss] has written one of the most lyrical novels I’ve read in a long time.
— Mike Fischer

With grace and originality, Krauss writes of loss and many kinds of loneliness, the connections between memory and objects, between memory and identity, and about uncertainty.
— Sandee Brawarsky

Steeped in place and memory, Great House is a worthy successor to Krauss’ earlier works, more complex and more challenging.
— Robin Vidimos

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, author of Ship Fever

Krauss’ third novel…is perhaps even more indicative [than The History of Love] of her ability to weave intricate storylines, craft emotionally layered characters and expertly draw out the pain, difficulty, and extreme complexity of human relationships.
— Juliet Linderman


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?