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The Hundred-Year House

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  9,086 ratings  ·  1,394 reviews
Meet the Devohrs: Zee, a Marxist literary scholar who detests her parents’ wealth but nevertheless finds herself living in their carriage house; Gracie, her mother, who claims she can tell your lot in life by looking at your teeth; and Bruce, her step-father, stockpiling supplies for the Y2K apocalypse and perpetually late for his tee time. Then there’s Violet Devohr, Zee’ ...more
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published July 10th 2014 by Viking
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Average rating 3.44  · 
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Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Zee wondered, in brief amazement, if it had all been true, if she'd simply set things in motion. But no, this was her own creation, her own monster. She had willed this into being.

I grudgingly have to admit that this book was brilliant.

It is about a house that was built in 1900 and eventually became an artists' colony.

The story is told in three parts: 1999-2001, 1955, and 1929, and a small prologue at the end which takes place in 1900. Yes, it is as if the book were written backwards.

The reason
Paquita Maria Sanchez
A good book from a clever writer which suffers from a sluggish last act and a rigidly conceived format. Her characters are believable if occasionally detestable, her comedic tone is consistently on without coming across as frivolous, and she plays some interesting games with the "house as character" element seen in a lot of classic horror n' la-huuuuv-drama novels from far and away, way back in stuffy dresses fancy hair times. Unfortunately, as the book moves along its reverse-chronological path ...more
Vanessa LaFerriere
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was very excited to receive an advanced galley of this book. The early reviews called it "dazzling" and the premise sounded intriguing. Indeed, it was creative, unique, and well structured, but I felt like something was missing. Actually, a few things were missing.

WHAT WORKED: The novel is broken up into parts that take place in 1999, 1955, 1929, and 1900, in that order. It never revisits any of the later time frames - it just keeps taking you back in time. However, because of the author's cl
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a delightful novel this was! The story starts in 1999 at an American mansion, with a struggling writer, Doug, and his wife, Zee, who are staying in the carriage house. Doug is interested in an arts colony that used to be on the estate, thinking those literary stories will help revive his stalled book project. The house is known to have secrets, which are slowly revealed to the reader as the story jumps back in time to the 1950s, and later jumps again to 1929.

My favorite part of the book wa
(4.5) In a brilliant postmodern take on two classic genres, the country house novel and the ghost story, Makkai traces – backwards – the story of a Chicago-area house, once an artists’ colony, throughout the twentieth century.

The first thing you’ll notice about this novel is that, like a crazy house, it’s upside-down. That is: it opens in 1999, that near-contemporary storyline taking up about half the text; follows it with sections set in 1955 and 1929; and finishes with a prologue set in 1900.
My dearest Laurelfield,

Your tale started out as a short story about male anorexia. The author have no idea what the hell happened next, and neither do I, sorry to say !

The first woman, Violet Saville Devohr, to step over your threshold, understood the meaning of doors when she said to her husband: “You may shut me in, but I can shut you out. There are two sides to every door, Augustus.” And then she proceeded to commit suicide by her own rules. She defined the rest of your story as a paint
Review originally published at Learn This Phrase.

The 'hundred year house' is Laurelfield, a grand, English-style manor house built in Illinois for the Devohrs, a family of eccentric, upper-class Canadians. Makkai's second novel tells the story of the house through its various incarnations - a prison for an unhappy wife; an artists' colony; the setting for an ultimately tragic tale involving swapped identities; the backdrop for an affair that never was and a search for lost files that may not exi
switterbug (Betsey)
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Rod Stewart once sang, “The first cut is the deepest,” and although Makkai doesn’t channel Rod Stewart in her intrepid, ambitious, darkly witty and astringent second book, that line has been embedded in me since I closed the last page. The deep cut goes back almost 100 years, to 1900, but you have to get backwards via forward progression of pages. Makkai did a bold and brave thing in her narrative, inverting the timeline, which starts in 1999. Section two starts in 1955, section three in 1929, a ...more
Diane S ☔
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
3.5 This was a very slow starter for me, but there was just enough intrigue and strange occurrences happening to keep one reading. The book starts in the present, in 1999 just before the supposed Y2K. Two couple re living in the coach house and Grace and he hubby live in the house shepherded from her mother. At one time an artist's colony the house has seen many deaths of those that have stayed there.

This novel does in fact go backwards, though the first part in the present is the longest, almos
Jul 04, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I received an arc copy of this book from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. This was my first GR Giveaway win and I had read a lot of great reviews so I was super excited to read it. Let’s just say that my anticipation was not rewarded. Thank you Firstreads for the opportunity!

Synopsis: As the name implies, this novel is about a one hundred year old house, Laurelfield, and the lives of its inhabitants over time. In a unique approach, the narrative is broken up into parts that take place
Celeste Fairchild
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book definitely takes you for a ride (in more ways than one). You start off in 1999 and wind up in 1900. I was worried once I figured out that this was the format -- I was getting attached to these 1999 people, who were funny and weird, and then I'm looking ahead and realizing that we're never coming back to 1999. But -- in a bizarre, unanticipated way -- we ARE. (That's cryptic on purpose. I wouldn't spoiler this one for the world.) You get emotionally involved with all these characters, a ...more
Nicole D.
May 10, 2014 rated it it was ok

This book might be a nod to The Haunting of Hill House. Laurelfield has been used intermittently as an artist colony. And I think there's a ghost. The story is told in reverse, so we start with the "current" day which is the end of 1999 (and the Y2K stuff was moderately entertaining, but so dated, perhaps it's just too soon to be a good joke yet). The writing was good, the idea was solid, the structure was interesting... so why only (generously) 2.5 stars? The characters! They were AWFUL--- ther
Mar 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: tbr-challenge
It's amazing to me that so many people liked the last two sections the best. To me - the best sections by far are the first two - 1999 and 1955. I wish that Makkai had written the whole book from those two timelines instead of all four (1929 and 1900 are the last as the book is structured in reverse order). 1929 is especially disconcerting with the many, many artist perspectives.

I love that we all have such different experiences with a book. I would have given this a solid four star rating if 19
Mar 25, 2015 rated it liked it
I find myself in lock-step with Rebecca Makkai's blend of humor and whimsy, and really enjoyed her earlier effort The Borrower. The first half of The Hundred-Year House follows in The Borrower's footsteps, but a creative decision to tell the story in reverse renders the second half (and final product) somewhat anticlimactic.

The titular house in question, built in 1900 by the Devohr family near Lake Michigan, evolved to become the centerpiece of an artist's retreat for the first half of the twent
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Rebecca Makkai has written a clever, brilliant puzzle box of a book about a house and the secrets it has witnessed, gathered - and maintained its silence about - over its one hundred year lifespan. This is a novel of many characters and many layers. It relates its history and divulges its secrets from the present day backwards - rather like deconstructing an onion – until, at its very end (the Prologue), you “unpeel” the final layer and find, just like an onion, you have nothing tangible left in ...more
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is so startlingly creative it defies classification. Reading it is like sinking slowly into a warm bath. Makkai's skillful prose pulled me under the surface and held me there, entranced. (Does that sound malevolent, like the book was trying to drown me? Maybe my metaphor is flawed, but I loved this book so much I would have accepted oxygen deprivation as a fair price to pay to keep reading.)

Makkai tells her story in reverse, beginning with the most recent generation of the eccentric o
This is a novel that takes place on one piece of land over the span of a century. I love the premise. From ‘virgin land’ to arts colony to occupation by a family, the story of The Hundred-Year House is told backward, starting in 1999. Unfortunately, it’s a very predictable story, not nearly as interesting as I'd hoped.

Like another novel I recently reviewed, the most compelling part of this story is its supernatural element, which is sorely lacking. The Laurelfield estate is said to be haunted by
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
I totally lost the thread of this story and had to make myself finish it. It started out promising enough, but then the story just kind of dragged and got confusing. Maybe I'm just dense.
Oh, Rebecca Makkai, I think you have become my manic pixie dream girl of literary fiction authors.

Reading a Makkai novel is like gleefully flipping open all the little flaps and hatches on a fabulous Advent calendar or pop-up book. This is especially true of this novel in particular, a fictional biography of a fictional house. Its story is told in the format of three separate-but-linked novellas connected only by the house and its grounds and the artistic ambitions and troubled love relationship
Jul 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The structure of the book is very interesting because the story is told backwards. You start with the current generation in the house and then move backwards in time through the preceding 100 years. As you read, certain things the characters say and do puzzle you until you see how it relates to the generation that lived there previously. At first I loved the book. I was completely hooked into the current family living there and consumed by the mystery of what was hidden in the attic. It is the f ...more
I really enjoyed The Hundred-Year House. I must admit that I wasn't sure how I felt about it at the halfway mark—the first half is a story told in the present time of a marriage, with family mysteries and secrets and ghosts. The house gets under people's skins. This first section was interesting but I wasn't satisfied with the way it wrapped up in the end. But once I started on the other sections, I got it. The second half of the book is divided into three sections—one set in the 1950s (when the ...more
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I’ve been reading some Rebecca Makkai and this one sounded interesting. I’m finding she’s a good writer but at some point towards the end the sizzle fades. I’m trying to figure out why, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

This story is about a 100 year old house; it’s got many secrets - supposedly a ghost who took her own life in real life, somewhere, somehow in the house, and her vivid staring oil portrait in the dining room. There are some oddities of family that get intermingled at this, t
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's rare that I want to re-read a book that I don't absolutely lovingly adore - which although I really enjoyed this I didn't - but for this book I make an exception. Topsy turvy, back to front and a mix of genres, but this absolutely worked together. I feel if I re-read there would be much I didn't pick up on the first read. Very clever, very enjoyable!
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
**Thank you Penguin/Viking and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**

The Hundred-Year House takes place during four different times periods. We start out in 1999 and work our way backwards to 1900. Even though each time period has its own group of characters, all their stories are connected in someway. This book was a roller-coaster ride for my emotions. It made me feel joy, sadness, and anger. So much anger in the first section.

This novel first came to my attention som
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-this-year
A novel I didn't want to end - it was brilliant! I loved the time line of the book - how it started out in the present and finished with the past, slowly uncovering its secrets so that by the time the last page was turned the history of the house and the mystery surrounding its ghost was revealed. Plenty of family secrets abound in this saga which is part farce, part historical drama and part gothic love story. So many layers to love.
Robert Blumenthal
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
My take on this novel (my first by Rebecca Makkai) is that it is a really good novel that should have been a great one. I had seen the author interviewed by Seth Myers and was encouraged to check her out. This book is divided into four time periods (though the last is a mere five pages long), each one considerably earlier than the previous (I - 1999, II - 1955, III - 1929, IV - 1900). There is a danger in this structure, in that you are introduced to characters in the longest 169 page first sect ...more
Robert Zimmermann
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Earlier this year, I discovered Rebecca Makkai through her debut novel, The Borrower. That book became a favorite of mine for many reasons. With The Hundred-Year House, I knew I was in for another great reading experience, though I wasn't ready to encounter such a change from Makkai's first book. On top of that, this book is split up into a few sections. Each section has it's own style, characters, and time period to convey to the reader. This all, for me, shows how diverse a writer Makkai is an ...more
Mar 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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Rebecca Makkai's The Hundred-Year House is one of those rare novels that you can't wait to see what happens at the end but you never want to get there. The book is one of the most engrossing that I've read in a very long time, and I have a feeling that it's going to a big hit when it comes out in July 2014. As a reviewer, I was fortunate to get my hands on an early copy, and you can be sure that I'll be spreading the word
William Kelly
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is my review for the advanced copy I received...

Rebecca Makkai is a sheer talent that I am very happy to be finding early in her writing career. Her novel, The Hundred-Year House, is nothing short of brilliant and is superbly crafted.
The story itself is about the Laurelfield estate, which was once home to an Arts Colony, and how it is haunted by ancestor Violet and of course the people that have filled its door for the last century.
The narrative works in the reverse, opening in the presen
Jennifer (aka EM)
Exquisite. I want to go back and read it, now, in reverse - which is to say in proper chronological order - but, of course, that would be wrong. It is SO RICH. Makkai is a master plotter (at times this felt Shakespearean, but I note it also draws on Greek myth, in particular Proteus) and her imagery and metaphors are in perfect service to her plot(s) - or is it the other way around? - and perfectly balanced with her lovely, lyrical prose. All come together seamlessly in a timeline that goes back ...more
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"Rebecca Makkai is the author of the short story collection MUSIC FOR WARITIME (Viking, 2015) and the novels THE HUNDRED-YEAR HOUSE and THE BORROWER. Her short stories have appeared in four consecutive issues of THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES (2008-2011). She lives in Chicago and Vermont."

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