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Great House by Nicole Krauss

January 17, 2012

Great House by Nicole Krauss reminded me a bit of Olive Kitteridge because of the short story-like format. The stories told by the five narrators could stand alone as short stories, but are strung together in this novel by a single item – a massive, foreboding desk. After finishing the book, I actually had to sit and think about how the desk fit for each of the characters, because it’s actually not that obvious, which I found to be a little bizarre. Usually in books set up this way, it’s easy to see the common theme or idea in the individual stories, but with Great House I almost wanted to make a diagram to figure it. Ok, you know what? I did make a diagram. Because that is just something I would do.

So now you can see the five narrators and a bit about their stories. I didn’t want to give too much away, but I wanted to share a little about how the desk connects to each one.

The Aaron storyline is a great one – I loved how we heard a father’s inner dialog about how he treated his son, why he did the things he did, why he felt the way he did, what he would have changed. But, the Aaron/Dov story has such a very slim connection to the desk that it’s the one that troubled me the most. There is really just one tiny strand of connection to one of the other stories, and I didn’t love that; I wanted something more meaningful.

My favorite of the stories may have been Arthur and Lotte. They are a unique couple, and while Arthur loves Lotte more than anything, Lotte is more reserved and mysterious, and has some profound secrets in her past. I found the dichotomy to be very sad.

In all, I liked Great House. I thought it was very well written and love some of the quotes:

 If you think you’re original in anything, think again.


We take comfort in the symmetries we find in life because they suggest a design where there is none.

Great House was challenging and engaging and it made me think, not just about the story, but about life. I wish the stories had a bit more of lifeline between them and not just a thread, but those threads did make me ponder a bit more than I might have otherwise.

*Desk image:

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