Thursday, July 7, 2011
I first encountered Nicole Krauss through her novel History of Love, a book that sat on my shelf awhile before I ventured in. That book reminded me in a way of Jonathan Safron Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (and yes, I did have to look up the title again to remember which adverb goes with which adjective). Both have young narrators and weave together what at first seems to be disconnected plot lines. Both also have threads of Holocaust narratives as well.
I started Great House once unsuccessfully, then picked it back up during my vacation and couldn't put it down. Again the pulls together characters with only thin connections--if any at all--in New York, London, and Jerusalem. The single connection is a large, usual desk, first introduced by a narrator (one of several) who agrees to keep furniture for a young poet returning to Chile. The desk is the single piece to which she becomes attached, eventually using it while writing her novels. The other characters include the husband of another, more famous author who owned the desk, a brother and sister whose father recovers personal items lost during the Holocaust, a son who returns home to stay with his estranged father in Israel after quitting his job as a judge in England.
The significance of the title also makes a late appearance in the narrative, reinforcing the idea of collective memory. I have finally learned to highlight and make notes in my i-Book, so I can at least look back for the patches of yellow.
This is not the kind of narrative for which I could provide a spoiler. In fact, this is one of the handfuls of books that I finish then turn back and re-read the last chapter or two, just to be sure I comprehend how the story is resolved. I can often (well, maybe I should say sometimes) read a book and feel satisfied when I'm finished without needing to talk about it. This is not one of those books. I have a genuine desire to go back through and chart the people, places, and timeline. I have a need to talk about this clever, intricately woven tale with someone else. I'm just not through with it yet.