Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Great House

I've always loved stories that are interwoven: Cloud Atlas, American Music, A Visit from the Goon Squad.  There's something intriguing, as a reader, about discovering the thread that holds characters together, and forces me to think of my own life in terms of how I connect with the people around me. 
Great House, by Nicole Krauss, connects people, not by relationships to each other, but to a large desk.  The silent main character is a hulking wooden mass of drawers, owned by (perhaps) the great poet Lorca, a Chilean writer tortured by the police in his country, a woman reeling from the loss of her only child during the Holocaust, a modern writer who feels the loss of the desk as a physical pain, a woman who watches her lover's father drive himself to solitude while recreating his own father's office.  It's a beautifully written, touching story of how our possessions can come to define us, and the delicate cord that holds families together. 
While I thoroughly enjoyed the stories and characters, I did find that some of the passages seemed to drag, and I had a hard time reading it for more than, perhaps, 50 pages at a time.  Because there is so much exposition and inner dialogue, it could be difficult to imagine the physicality of the characters; I love having a good image in my head of what's going on.  Most of this book, if it were going to be drawn out, would be a person staring into space while deep in thought, without much action.  Of course, there are some passages where something happens, and it brings the story right back into focus.  Not a beach read; you'll need to spend more time on these themes and characters than that.

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