Amie Mills's Reviews > Great House

Great House by Nicole Krauss
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Feb 11, 2011

really liked it
Read from February 05 to 11, 2011

Having read all three of her books, this one felt like it had grown up a more serious and complicated adolescent than the others. It asks more of you as a reader. Watching this interview with her (http://bit.ly/8ZIQCD) after I read it helped me understand better the way it chose to weave itself around a bottomless centre. She described it visually as a galaxy of interconnecting themes, stories and characters and those types of novels usually jar or feel too consciously strung together to be beautiful but this book is different. This book makes me want to start again and repiece it. I will read everything she ever writes.

Page 255

"And the answer that comes to me, which is only part of the answer, is that I wished to punish her for her intolerable stoicism, which made it impossible for me to ever be truly needed by her in the most profound ways a person can need another, a need that often goes by the name of love. Of course she needed me – to keep order, to remember the shopping, to pay the bills, to keep her company, to give her pleasure, and, in the end, to bathe, and wipe, and dress her, to bring her to the hospital, and finally to bury her. But that she needed it o be me who performed these duties and not some other man, equally in love with her, equally at the ready, was never entirely clear to me. I suppose it could be said that I never demanded she make the case for her love, but then I never really felt like I had the right. Or maybe I feared that, honest as she was, unable to tolerate the smallest insincerity, she would fail to make the case, that she would stutter and grow silent, and then what choice would I have but to get up and leave forever, or continue with things as they had always been, only now with the full knowledge that I was simply one example where there could have been many? It isn’t that I thought she loved me less than she might have loved another man (though there were time I feared as much). No, what I’m speaking of now, or trying to speak of, is something else, the sense that her self-sufficiency – the proof she carried within her that she could withstand unthinkable tragedy on her own, that in fact the extreme solitude she had constructed around herself, reducing herself, folding in on herself, turning a silent scream into the weight of private work, was precisely what enabled her to withstand it – made it impossible for her to ever need me as I needed her. No matter how bleak or tragic her stories were, their effort, their creation, could only ever be a form of hope, a denial of death or a howl of life in the face of it. And I had no please in that. Whether I existed downstairs or not, she would continue to do what she had always done alone at her desk, and it was that work that allowed her to survive, not my care or company. All our lives I’d insisted that it was she who was dependent on me. She who needed to be protected, who was delicate and required constant care. But in truth it was I who needed to feel needed."
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