Thursday, January 6, 2011

Great House by Nicole Krauss

Great House by Nicole Krauss

Hardback, 2010, 289 pages.

I loved The History of Love, so I had to check this out. After a long waiting list at the library, I finally got to pick up this book.

It's hard to explain the plot of this book in just a few sentences. There is a collection of characters: a writer who lives a reclusive life, a father who was too hard on his son, a student who falls in love with the son of an antique's dealer, and more. They're all connected by a desk, an old piece of furniture that looms in their lives.

I can't deny Nicole Krauss has a way with words. She pulls me into the minds of her characters. She speaks about the human state with such effortlessness and brings all the sorrow and joy and mystery and loneliness and community of life into her pages.

That said, I guess I'm a stickler for tradition. This novel reads more like memoirs from four different people who happen to be connected by a desk. It's great writing, but I was left wondering, 'What's the common thread? What binds all of these people together?' Some of them love the desk, some of them hate it, some don't even know it exists.

I loved the characters and their stories, but I'm okay with the fact that I don't read novels like this often. I feel like they're stories I can only take every now and then because if I read novels like this consistently, I'd probably get bored or, worse, I'd start talking in sweeping generalizations that don't really make sense but sound pretty anyway, and my writing would start getting really long-winded, like this sentence, and all my paragraphs would be a page or more long.

Regardless, this book comes highly recommended from yours truly. This is the kind of book that's a special treat, a gem, even, but I'm still glad it's not the norm for novels today.

A few things I could learn from this book:

Rules can be broken. Nicole doesn't use quotation marks and doesn't make a new paragraph every time someone new speaks in dialogue. She more often tells than shows. But breaking these common rules in her writing really works for her and for the story. I think it's important to remember that this isn't the norm for a reason, but that, if the author is really good at what she does, she can make anything work.

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