❮BOOKS❯ ✪ Great House Author Nicole Krauss – Transportjobsite.co.uk

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10 thoughts on “Great House

  1. says:

    So I say again writing a book of short stories, fitting them together Tetris like, and calling it a novel DOES NOT MAKE YOUR BOOK A NOVEL Also telling your publisher to put a novel on the cover after the title DOES NOT MAKE YOUR BOOK A NOVEL If you write a collection of short stories, IT IS OK TO CALL IT A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES Because you are Nicole Krauss, especially, because you will probably STILL BE NOMINATED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD EDIT But YOU WON T WIN, thankfully Lord of Misrule will win This is a very well written book throughout, meaning sentence by sentence Nicole Krauss can string words together effortlessly, can create haunting and memorable imagery through evocative metaphors you d never dream of But all those sentences didn t add up to much of anything for me It definitely feels like the form is what interests her, but the Big Idea interconnected stories that are all related to the perhaps malovelent presence of an imposing desk, its many tiny drawers standing in for the melodramatic seekrits and secret pains of its many owners obscures the characters.It sounds interesting, but it isn t It s monotonous, and confusing Puzzling out the structure is a pain in the neck because the stories, each with a different narrator, all sound the same, whether the speaker is a middle aged American woman or an elderly male Hungarian Jew Everyone mopes about the WEIGHT OF MEMORY this was probably explained to me on the jacket copy because I honestly had a hard enough time concentrating on the plot , which is symbolized by furniture and also by how they constantly talk about their horrible memories I don t have to like the characters, but not a one of them had much of a spark, which made reading about them distasteful AND dull.I can t say I m surprised this was nominated for the National Book Award, but I am disappointed, because I think if it wins, a lot of extra people are going to read it, and a lot of them aren t going to like it And I read a lot of other books this year, books that weren t nominated, that I think would benefit from the extra attention and might also be a lot less likely to alienate readers For all of the depth of talent on display in the prose, this is an oddly lifeless book, and I don t see it connecting with most readers, even serious readers In conclusion I would not recommend Great House A Collection of Stories and I certainly don t recommend Great House A Novel.


  2. says:

    As I sit down to assess the past year with Rosh Hashanah fast approaching, I decided to read a Jewish author who I have never read before Recently in one of the groups I am in here on Goodreads the Reading for Pleasure book group I took a turn holding the quill for the group s Pepys Project, a diary detailing literary births, deaths, and happenings for each day The last day of my turn was August 18, the birthday of author Nicole Krauss With her new book Forest Dark due to hit shelves soon, I felt that this was a way of telling me that I should experience the award winning author s works for myself Reading descriptions carefully, I decided upon Great House, a title evoking imagery of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem with a multi layered plot full of surprises along the way.From the novels first pages, it was evident to me that Krauss is both a leading Jewish novelist and literary fiction writer today The book starts out where Nadia, a writer perhaps meant to be Krauss herself, is talking to a judge In a stream of consciousness monologue, Nadia takes her readers down memory lane as she describes her life as a novelist over the last twenty five years While the story takes place in the present, Nadia s entire existence is rooted with a chance meeting with Chilean poet named Daniel Varsky twenty six years before Although their affair was brief, Varsky left Nadia his immense desk This desk, which held than just sentimental value to Varsky, becomes the focal point of Nadia s career, as she sits there to write seven novels, which become her livelihood It is during work on the eighth novel that Varsky s supposed daughter comes to ask for the desk back, sending Nadia s life and career into a tailspin.In each section of the novel, Krauss introduces another protagonist whose life has been impacted by this grand desk Originally the property of a prominent Jewish family in Hungary, the desk had been plundered by the Nazis and underwent a journey across four continents until it reached its present destination in Nadia s apartment In a London suburb, Arthur Berg cares for his wife Lotte who is dying of Alzheimer s Lotte had also been a writer and made the acquaintance of Varsky she was so taken by him that she gifted him her desk, that had once been a gift from a previous lover Berg did not realize the impact of either the desk or of Varsky on Lotte s life until her disease had overtaken most of her memory Thus, the desk underwent travels through history.Each protagonist is stronger than the other Krauss introduces her readers to an Israeli attorney named Aaron who is reeling from the death of his wife Rivka Aaron has to come to grips with his relationship with his adult son Dovik, who had always been introverted and closer with his mother The family s relationship with the desk is not inherent from the start however, Aaron s monologues describing Dovik s troubled childhood are among Krauss most poignant passages in the novel I can only help feelin for Dovik as he lived with the trauma growing up with a father who did not understand him and was much closer to his rival sibling.Finally, the plot comes together with the introduction of Weisz, a furniture dealer who has rescued countless pieces of antiques pilfered by the Nazis from places around the globe, and his children Yoav and Leah Like the other characters in the novel, the triumvirate has a deeply personal relationship with the desk however, as the family originally comes from eastern Europe, it becomes apparent that their history with this piece may be greater than that of the other characters Even though each piece of plot moves slowly, Krauss use of prose is exquisite and a joy to read I could not help but reading quickly through this gem to find out the origins of the desk and who its rightful owner is With emotions riding high as to the ownership, the second half of the novel moved faster than the first.Toward the end of the novel, Weisz delivers a poignant monologue explaining the novel s title In the words of biblical scholar Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, he explains that to Bend a people around the shape of what they lost, and let everything mirror its absent form Later his school became known as the Great House, after the phrase in Books of Kings He burned the house of G d, the king s house, and all houses of Jerusalem, even every great house he burned with fire So close to the new year, I appreciate Krauss use of biblical anecdotes to the Jewish people as people of the book I thoroughly enjoyed this intricately woven novel of memories, a web of human emotions, and strong prose I am sure that Great House will not be the last of her novels that I read, as I rate this gem of a book 4.5 stars.


  3. says:

    How Did She Do What She Just Did I looked forward to reading this novel for several years, was apprehensive in the first couple of chapters, persisted, got my bearings, then in the second half grew confident that it would blow my mind which it did.The novel makes demands on you, you have to exert yourself, but the rewards are enormous and profound.As at the time of writing this review if I can call it that , I finished the novel less than 24 hours ago I still haven t worked out what else to say about it There is so much I want to talk about with somebody anybody However, because of the desire to avoid spoilers, I know there are things I mustn t say in a review The problem is, it s these aspects of the novel that fascinate me, and they are so numerous, so I m going to write whatever spoiler free thing comes into my head relatively spontaneously I m sorry I can t do better than that yet, but I want to at least make a start, while the book is still fresh in my mind.One thing I must say, though, is that I admire what Nicole Krauss achieved as a writer in this novel My immediate reaction was how did she do what she just did Somehow, she seemed to drag me along from the relatively mundane to the sublime Only, I just never anticipated how sublime it would be.The Absence or Loss of PlotIt isn t a narrative driven novel There is no plot to speak of or is there There is a sense in which Nicole Krauss is rebelling against the traditional plot To that extent, this is an exemplary Post Modernist work.The narratives are set at different times Lots of dates are mentioned The first thing I tried to do after I finished was to write down the dates and what happened Some sort of chronology emerged I moved the pieces around like a jigsaw puzzle, and bit by bit a clearer picture eventuated But it s one you could keep returning to, year after year, trying to get better at reading or assembling it The StructureThe book is less than 300 pages long However, it took me almost a hundred pages to detect its rhythm and feel comfortable I think this was because I had anticipated something quite different possibly as a result of the blurb.The structure of the novel is quite simple to describe However, aspects of it resemble and raise similar issues with respect to the juxtaposition of different narratives as a recent novel that consisted of nested stories It s divided into two parts The second part is almost a mirror image that expands on or resolves the first part Each part has four chapters roughly 40 pages each Each chapter has a title Three of the chapter titles are repeated in the second part The fourth and last chapter in the book is given a new title, but relates to the same person people The sequence of the chapters changes between the two parts of the novel Each chapter is narrated in the first person, or less as a monologue There is relatively little dialogue We really get into the head of each narrator, whether or not we like or empathise with them There are a few stylistic anomalies in some chapters e.g., clumsy similes , which made me wonder whether Krauss attention to detail might have slipped However, ultimately, I decided that she knew what she was doing all along, and that this inelegance was a trait of the narrator, not the author.The JourneyThe novel doesn t just progress from A to B, or from A to Z However, regardless, the novel maps a journey All of the steps are carefully recorded By the time we get to the end of the novel, we re conscious of the journey as a whole What seems to be fragmentary as we progress, is ultimately assembled together in a manner that accomplishes completeness, a whole, an entirety, a world, a universe, a Great House.Equally importantly, the journey is not just the journey of these narrators Krauss has a unique ability to make the journey seem like our journey as well I don t just mean this in the sense of empathy or verisimilitude I mean that she makes us make it our journey as well We have to exert ourselves We personalise it We don t just observe characters acting It s almost as if we get up on stage and join them We are trying as hard as them to make sense of this world that is being presented to all of us in fragments This world that Krauss is portraying is not just their world It s our world as well We learn about ourselves as we learn about her narrators.I m reluctant to describe the individual narrators or the chronology of events It might seem trite to say that it s essential for you to experience them yourself as part of your journey through the world of the novel I can t and don t want to take and don t want to spoil your journey for you It has to be your own journey.The Great HouseThere are many times on the journey when you ask yourself what the Great House is.It could be many types of house, both literally and metaphorically an actual physical home with all of its furniture and contents, including a writing desk , a family as in the House of Usher , a Temple, even a Book whether holy or not.Whatever type of house, I think it s a defence or buttress against the abyss.Whenever I read the word abyss particularly in the context of philosophy , I wonder how the word originated I tend to visualise it as a hole or an emptiness However, there s also a sense in which it is the opposite of being grounded it might mean that we are un grounded. We have no solid, physical foundation upon which to stand or build a home It might seem paradoxical, but just as we might fall into the abyss, we might float or fly away from solid ground, if we are un grounded Great House is concerned with this abyss and what it takes to be grounded, although not necessarily in so many words The two words that come to mind for me are absence and loss. In a way, both describe the non presence of some object or characteristic or person Absence could mean that it has never been present loss might mean that it was once present, but is no longer so.The novel raises the question how do we or should we deal with the abyss, with the absence, with the loss.Each narrator is missing something, whether or not it has always been absent, or whether it has been lost, or whether it has been burned or stolen, or whether it has been given away whether permanently or temporarily.Each narrator is estranged by the absence or loss Each narrator tries to do something about it in their own unique way.It s questionable whether you can overcome the absence or loss by yourself Although the absence or loss might apply to a physical object like the desk , it applies equally to relationships like love.Krauss explores these issues in the context of the Jewish predicament However, I think it is equally applicable to other religions and cultures.The Jewish people have had to deal with two challenges the loss of Jerusalem, and the Holocaust.One response to the loss of Jerusalem is to Turn Jerusalem into an idea Turn the Temple into a book, a book as vast and holy and intricate as the city itself Bend a people around the shape of what they lost, and let everything mirror its absent formeach one of us can only recall the tiniest fragment a pattern on the wall, a knot in the wood of a door, a memory of how light fell across the floor But if every Jewish memory were put together, every last holy fragment joined up again as one, the House would be built againor rather a memory of the House so perfect that it would be, in essence, the original itselfa perfect assemblage of the infinite parts of the Jewish memorywe live, each of us, to preserve our fragment, in a state of perpetual regret and longing for a place we only know existed because we remember a key hole, a tile, the way the threshold was worn under an open door So memory is part of the mechanism by which we combat the abyss, and books are the depositories of memories.Many of the characters react to the absence or loss by way of their silence They internalise and bottle up their anguish.Sometimes, you need to be opened up or uncorked or unlocked Sometimes, you are the key hole, and somebody else holds the key Sometimes, you have to realise that you yourself hold the key Together, our fragments form a perfect assemblage Together, we form a Great House.This novel is a Great House assembled out of the fragments of real or imaginary lives By the time the novel is finished, its shape becomes apparent, and everything locks into place It is a truly holy book.


  4. says:

    I m surprised this was written after History of Love because for me, though perhaps grown up, it s less accomplished The design is brilliant but let down by the execution There are four first person narratives, all of them Jewish The Holocaust is rarely overtly mentioned but it haunts the entire novel Its memorial is a desk that connects all these people One problem I had was all these voices tend to ramble, all go off point There are entire paragraphs which could be removed without in any way altering the book s design Often there was a brilliant page followed by a page of hot air And these characters aren t as memorable as those in History of Love They re all also rather unlikeable Control freaks No doubt this was intended as a depiction of the repercussions of carrying Nazis atrocities in your genes but I felt it could have been achieved with elasticity, flair, , dare I say it, charm History of Love almost had a surfeit of charm after all It s also a detective novel and I greatly enjoyed figuring out all the connections I admired it but I didn t quite love it.


  5. says:

    After reading The History of Love, I promised myself to read something else by Nicole Krauss when I had the chance I found Great House at a local thrift store for 1, and it was one of the best dollars I ever spent There are several narratives to follow and they are tied together by a desk, a desk that was part of the stolen property of Jews displaced by the Third Reich Each of the narratives is a story in itself, a glimpse into the lives of people who struggle with their humanity and how they fit into the world at large What each story has at its core is the theme of loss, memory and isolation Many of these characters have an excruciating inability to reach beyond themselves and touch others or let anyone in.This book is written like a maze, weaving in and out, characters coming and going It is a puzzle with pieces that lie just out of the reach of your hand and without which you can never make a complete picture There were moments when I wondered if I had missed something crucial, I felt so lost, and then Krauss would lay down her next layer and I would find the pieces interlocking and making sense There was, within that revelation, an accompanying feeling that I had discovered something not only about the characters, but about myself.This is a book that raises important questions and leaves you pondering answers long after you have reached the final page How much can you know about another person Does a person deserve to have his secrets respected after death How long can you close a person out before it is too late to make amends Can we ever understand a person fully if we do not have access to their history, their stories, their losses How can we not live with death every day, when we all know death is the ultimate outcome for each of us And then there is the concept of a thing carrying the memory, and in some way the residual life, of those who are lost I know from experience that when a person is gone, any possession they cherished takes on a different meaning In some ways, it can come to embody the idea of that person and feel like a bridge to their soul And, we can be linked in our minds to our pasts by smells and textures and breezes that blow through windows carrying sea spray or the smell of roses We can sometimes feel that if we could recreate those things, that material world, we could repossess our lost lives, our childhood, or our loves.Krauss writes prose that flows and sings and carries you along like a river For example, she describes an Alzheimer s patient in words that capture perfectly what those of us who have known the progress of this disease easily recognize I could see in her eyes that beneath those words there was nothing, just an abyss, like the black water pond she disappeared into every morning no matter the weather Then followed a period when she became scared, aware of how much she was losing by the day, perhaps even the hour, like a person slowly bleeding to death, hemorrhaging toward oblivionAnd then even that period passed, and she no longer remembered enough to be afraid, no longer remembered, I suppose, that things had ever been any other way, and from then on she set off along, utterly alone, on a long journey back to the shores of her childhood.If I was jolted by her transition from story to story, I was pulled back into the story immediately by her use of description and language The thread may have been tenuous at times, but it was worth any effort required to follow the thread to its end.


  6. says:

    I m a genre guy than a literature reader, but I ve been trying to branch out lately I m glad I did because I ve read some amazing things that I probably wouldn t have tried otherwise However, it only takes one book like this send me running back to the mystery or sci fi section for comfort It wasn t bad, but it s just working so damn hard to be an important book that it really isn t much fun to read And maybe all books shouldn t be fun, but they really shouldn t feel like this much work either.The book begins in the early 1970s in New York with a writer named Nadia losing all her furniture due to a break up with a boyfriend A mutual friend steers Nadia to Daniel Varsky, a young Chilean poet who is getting ready to leave New York and has an apartment full of furniture he wants to loan out until he returns The most impressive item is a large desk Nadia takes the furniture and later hears that Daniel was tortured and killed in Chile during Pinochet s brutal rule of the country.Years pass and the one constant in Nadia s life is the desk However, when a young woman claiming to be Daniel s daughter from a fling he had in Israel shows up, Nadia immediately relinquishes the desk to her, but soon regrets it.Several other stories are told in parallel to Nadia s An Israeli man mourning the death of his wife pours his heart out in a story to the son he never understood The husband of a British writer discovers a shocking secret about his wife after her death, and a young woman reflects on her love for a man who had an odd relationship with his sister and their father who is trying to recreate the study of his childhood home that was lost in the Holocaust Eventually, the links between all of the stories emerge.Krauss is one of those writers who impresses me technically but leaves me a bit cold despite writing something that was obviously going for the heart A big part of my problem is that that four of the characters are almost exactly the same Nadia, the British writer, the young woman in love, and the Israeli son are introverted types who live their lives mainly through books and words to the point of ignoring everything else I especially found Nadia tiresome because this is a woman with every advantage who deliberately chooses her writing career over relationships yet whines about her own nature constantly It s hard to feel too sympathetic for someone who cut themselves off of their own free will and yet who is so fragile that the loss of a desk will plunge them into a depressive bout of writer s block.The plot comes together in a nice web of cause and effect, but overall this book felt like getting stuck in a conversation with someone who obviously wants to be doing something else, but then proceeds to tell you about everything they ve talked about with their psychiatrist.


  7. says:

    This is the worst book I ve read in years The narratives are incredibly disjointed and confusing None of the characters is interesting enough to warrant the energy required of the reader to piece together their stories in a meaningful way The writing itself is trite and one gets the feeling that one has read similar stories by better writers By far the worst flaw of the book is the lack of propulsion I m amazed that I read the entire book as there was nothing driving the book forward Without giving too much of the novel away, I will say the image of the shark was arresting and beautiful but that the furniture motif felt forced and fell flat Why this book was nominated for the National Book Award is beyond me.


  8. says:

    A common criticism of this book is that it s like four short stories than a novel It s true the four narratives, with a little tinkering, could stand alone as brilliant inspired stories There s a suspicion too that Nicole Krauss has difficulties writing novels Only two in ten years in stark contrast to someone like Murakami who knocks them out with what s becoming almost a facile and self harming ease The stories are connected by a mysterious writing desk reminiscent of Edmund de Waal s The Hare with Amber Eyes when it s a collection of Japanese netsuke that are used to follow bloodlines Though the desk vanishes for great stretches of the narrative it haunts the lives of every character in these pages Initially the desk is another victim of the Nazis It vanishes from the home of a Jewish family in Germany At the heart of the book is an antiques dealer who restores furniture looted by the Nazis to their Jewish owners So the desk becomes a symbol of both home and heritage and in Great House we see how it affects the lives of a truly fabulous cast of characters The characters are so vividly engaging that we miss them when they are gone which is probably my only misgiving about this book It s difficult to keep the bigger picture in mind because of the overwhelming sweep and luminosity of each new page It s a bit like falling in love when the new lover utterly eclipses all who have come before But it has to be said that there s brilliant writing in this book than any I ve read this year so, on the whole, a massive thumbs up from me And just wish Nicole Krauss was prolific.


  9. says:

    This book is not about a house, great or minute It s about a view spoiler desk hide spoiler


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