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Great House

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  17,416 ratings  ·  2,455 reviews
For twenty-five years, a reclusive American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young Chilean poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet's secret police, one day a girl claiming to be the poet's daughter arrives to take it away, sending the writer's life reeling. Across the ocean, in the leafy suburbs of London, a man caring for his dying wife dis ...more
Hardcover, First Edition (US/CAN, 289 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Nicki We were never meant to know who gave it to her. Lotte Berg's husband Arthur received the name and address of Lotte's former lover (benefactor of the d…moreWe were never meant to know who gave it to her. Lotte Berg's husband Arthur received the name and address of Lotte's former lover (benefactor of the desk) from Mr. Weisz...but Arthur decided not to pursue the question of who he was out of respect for the relationship that he had shared with Lotte.(less)
Let as far as i understood it,
- nadia and the judge (dov) are connected only by the accident - and the judge isn't connected to anyone else in the story.
as far as i understood it,
- nadia and the judge (dov) are connected only by the accident - and the judge isn't connected to anyone else in the story.
- there was no connection between lotte and weisz, he was only the person hired to find the desk.
- daniel varsky wasn't lotte's son - the son died, as we see in the last part of the book. he only reminded her of her son.(less)

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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!
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
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, ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye
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
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I’m surprised this was written after History of Love because for me, though perhaps more 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 i ...more
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
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 the
Oct 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
I’m more 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 wo ...more
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american, jewish
How to Extract Empathy

Krauss is a mistress of extracted empathy. She can drag it out of you even when you fight it, particularly empathy for writers: for Nadia, a writer prevented by success from writing what she ought; for Dov, an Israeli, prevented by apparent paternal sadism from becoming a writer at all; for Lotte, an Holocaust-traumatised emigre writer, who reportedly goes skinny dipping every day on Hampstead Heath; for Isabel, a failed Oxford student (presumably a writer, if only of essay
Oct 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: novels
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. Witho ...more
Violet wells
A common criticism of this book is that it’s more 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 W ...more
Oct 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is not about a house, great or minute. It’s about a(view spoiler)

Okay, so maybe metaphorically speaking it could be about a great house, like as if we all live in the ‘great house’ of life blah blah blah but, really, it’s about a(view spoiler)

I’m not complaining. I really really like the (view spoiler) (aside: you can actually click on those... It's not a real spoiler, I just wanted to test that feature out.) It sounds
Roger Brunyate
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: holocaust, israel
If I Forget Thee…

Let me say it up front: Nicole Krauss is a major writer at the height of her powers and her latest novel is a towering achievement. Her subject is loss, and a process of reconstruction that is always painful and inevitably only partial. Loss, of course, is a central theme for many Jewish writers of her generation, but Krauss has dealt with it with greater consistency than most. Her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room, treated the subject obliquely, through a protagonist who loses
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are books that are the right ones at the right time. This one was a book at a certain time, maybe not just right, but with rough hewn edges that generally fit, squint the eyes a little, hold a thumb sideways, good enough. Life has thrown me from a moving vehicle and since I wasn't wearing my seat belt, the resulting scrape has left all these exposed nerve endings to be once again scraped by this book.

It wasn't the best read to have on the commute, the jerking of the bus and other people ca
MissBecka Gee

This was a collection of short stories revealed in alternating halves.
All the stories were long winded and barely had a connection with each other.
This was not good.
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
If you are looking for a light and simple story where there's a plot developed in the classic structure, this is not your book.
This is a tough novel, it requires guessing and work on your part, it's like a puzzle that somehow the reader has to put together. And for me, what makes it a great reading, is that you are not conscious of getting close to solving that puzzle, but when you turn the last page everything makes sense in a strange and singular way, like remembering your own memories, throug
Oct 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
It is no doubtfully a beautiful book. And it has something that I’ve never seen before: sentence by sentence of this novel are thoroughly poetically contemplated and moving. It is one big explosion of wonder, how did Krauss do it? I was overwhelmed with her writing style.

But her four short stories are a bit confusing although they intertwine all the time. I don't know what really happened to all of them in this book. As one reviewer wrote, I as well wanted to draw a picture of how they are conn
May 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened
I loved this story, I identified with so many of the characters. How a person can fold into themselves so much and not realize they are blocking out the rest of the world. How you can live with someone until death do you part and not really know them. How one decision changes someone's world. How we are all entitled to our secrets, to tell our secrets or to hold them till the grave. How the person holding the answer, to a question they never knew they had, has a choice, do they open the folded p ...more
Great House is both a novel with an overarching theme, and a collection of short stories - most of which are told in two parts, and all of which have loose connections with the others. In All Rise, a lonely writer in New York is haunted by the memory of a Chilean poet she met many years ago. In True Kindness, an elderly man in Israel, close to death, is both infuriated and pained by recollections of his difficult relationship with his youngest son. In Swimming Holes, a man is consumed with jealo ...more
Apr 03, 2020 rated it liked it
I so desperately wanted to like this book because I adore the concept of separate but linked stories that become a beautiful tapestry by a novel’s end. To begin, the writing in this novel is beautiful, eloquent, and achingly real. The characters, however, are ALL remarkably unlikable and the stories are linked by the thinnest, most transparent thread (the object itself is a massive, imposing desk but the linkage is shaky). Everything in the novel is angst-y and morose; the language is redemptive ...more
Jul 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: pretty-good
Great House is a I like this book, but I can't give it four stars three stars read.

The writing is beautiful and it's as smooth as fine powder white cream, the stories of different characters hold promises to greatness, I like how Ms. Krauss' characters can be understandable and complicated at the same time---and many of them don't even have to be likable in order to hold your interest. But the's so disappointing. I even feel like I'm reading an unfinished book when I turne
Annie Loerke
Jan 19, 2011 rated it liked it
i'm embarrassed to say i actually sat down and drew out a diagram trying to sort out how all the characters were connected! then, in a fit of desperation, i logged on and google-d it, trying to find a post that would decipher it for me! so maybe i'm a simpleton, but it seems as though this type of book should not be so laborious. someone tell me, please, and put me out of my misery - the judge that nadia is addressing, is it his son, the melancholy soldier/would-be writer that she hit with her c ...more
Nov 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So it started with a desk and ended up being about a desk all along. Or not. This narrative reminded me of a dramatic monologue or soliloquy. I really liked the flow, the arrangement of words were sugary literary goodness. I admit if I just read the blurb on the back, I might not have picked up the book to read, but because I leafed through the first few pages in the bookstore, I knew I had to get it. Krauss writes with the wisdom of an 80-year-old, dissecting her characters and producing a stor ...more
Nov 28, 2010 rated it did not like it
I almost made it to page 100. I was thinking that the narrative was quite loose, plot developments subtle with a heavy focus on the characters' inner lives, a bit more intellectual than I typically choose, but I was soldiering on, trying to prove my literary merit as a reader. Hey guys, wait for me, I could have been an English major too! But when I read the following sentence, which occupies half of page 95, I gave myself permission to hang it up:

"But they didn't come, and so I continued to sit
Jennifer (aka EM)
Oct 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: prosetry
Moments of soaring, heart-shattering prose. Krauss has the ability with one sentence - the gaps between the words, really (what you're expecting, more than what you are reading) - to imply and evoke the depth of emotion from the tragedies of life. It doesn't hurt that her characters have undergone or are experiencing the greatest contemporary tragedies of our times - the Holocaust, war, political persecution, sickness, death, deep and unreconciled domestic splits.

Much of this is about writing a
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Every once in a while I will read something that affects me on a personal level. It becomes so intense that it is like a relationship, a secret relationship that I have with the characters of the story. It is not only that I can relate to the characters, feel their pain, happiness, anger, and fear it is that the author allows me to feel that way in a very subtle and almost sneaky sort of way. There are only a couple books that have made me feel that way in the past, The World According to Garp, ...more
Sep 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Nicole Krauss is an accomplished writer. Of that, there is no doubt. Her prose flows, even in a so-so work like this one. The problem here is that, although the prose flows, it just flows. This novel has multiple narrators speaking to an unspecified you, a Your Honor,and a son. However, the tone, no matter who is speaking or about what, remains the same. There are no distinguishing features between the narrators. Since the chapter titles don't include the narrator's name, that doesn't give the r ...more
Andy Miller
Nov 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The novel consists of four stories, three of which are connected by possession of an antique desk. The desk belonged to a Jewish family in Europe that was stolen when the Nazis too the family, the son who survived the war spends his life putting finding his family home's furniture and that of other Jewish families. Through that story we learn of the Holocaust's effect on generations born after its end by seeing the impact on the furniture dealer's children.

The desk is taken to London and ends u
This book of four loosely connected stories is a demanding read - it requires work from the reader. It has two parts, each with 4 chapters. The stories told in the 4 chapters of Part I are continued in Part II, although one of the stories has a different title and narrator in Part II. The most obvious connection, as the book cover and GR blurbs tell us, is a desk. But the blurbs are misleading, as they fail to mention the fourth story, probably because the direct link to the desk is not there. B ...more
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Yes, the relationships that tie the stories one to another in this novel of Nicole Krauss are not easily followed, and it falls short of the beauty of The History of Love, but that is not to say Krauss' writing in Great House does not have many moments of beauty, because it does.
In the beginning of Great House I struggled with the connections between the characters, the relationships between the individual stories, but I enjoyed it for the writing itself. The story - or stories - fall far short
switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
An imposing wooden desk with nineteen drawers floats through this book like a buoy, and sometimes with shackles, loosely uniting four disparate but interconnected narrative threads. The desk is largely a monument to Jewish survival, loss, and recovery, and mirrors the dissolution, pain, and dire hope of each character. Additionally, it is a covetous object, given a poignant and existential significance by the chorus of voices that are bound to it by their memories.

"Bend a people around the shape
Sid Nuncius
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was an exceptionally good book. It had the potential to be dreadful - five fractured, loosely linked monologue narratives, little plot to speak of, no quotation marks for speech... it sounds like the sort of tricksy writing that I hate, designed to show off the author's cleverness and with little regard for anyone being able to read it. However, it is so well written that it works brilliantly: I found myself completely engaged with the characters and their stories and it also has ...more
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Nicole Krauss is the author of the international bestseller The History of Love, which was published by W.W. Norton in 2005. It won the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Ėtranger, was named #1 book of the year by, and was short-listed for the Orange, Médicis, and Femina prizes. Her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room, was a finalist for the ...more

Articles featuring this book

Her Favorite Works in Translation: The Brooklyn romantic who penned The History of Love shares her favorite "books in translation" in honor of her...
32 likes · 6 comments
“One of us had loved the other more perfectly, had watched the other more closely, and one of us listened and the other hadn’t, and one of us held on to the ambition of the one idea far longer than was reasonable, whereas the other, passing a garbage can one night, had casually thrown it away.” 82 likes
“I've reached the age where bruises are formed from failures within rather than accidents without.” 68 likes
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