Saturday, June 16, 2012

Great House

I finally finished Great House by Nicole Krauss - I had started it some time ago and then got distracted by other things on my nightstand.  It's a lovely book, and Krauss writes beautifully - her History of Love is so poetic and beautiful... but... I have to say I found some parts of Great House really boring, and, I must admit I flipped past a few pages.  She'll go on for whole paragraphs about someone raising a glass of tea to their lips, not drinking, and putting the cup down again.

The book tracks, non-linearly, a desk and it's various owners.  The first character is a writer who talks about how she came to own the desk.  I like the way she tells this story because, as a reader, you kind of get ost int he story but every once in a while she slips in that "Your Honor" and reminds you that there's a bit of a mystery about to whom and why she might be talking.  Another story is told from the perspective of a hate-fueled old man whose wife has died and he has a really rotten relationship with one of his sons.  My favorite story is told by a young woman who is dating a guy - she loves him and his sister, but they have this weird, mysterious relationship with their father, who searches out furniture for Jewish families.  He searches for these tangible articles that were stolen by the Nazis.  "Unlike people, he used to say, the inanimate doesn't simply disappear."
The Gestapo confiscated the most valuable items in the apartment, which were many, since Weisz's family on this mother's side had been wealthy. These were loaded - along with mountains of jewelry, diamonds, money, watches, paintings, rugs, silverware, china, furniture, linens, porcelains, and even cameras and stamp collections - onto the forty-two car "Gold Train" the SS used to evacuate Jewish possessions as the Soviet troops  advanced toward Hungary.  In the years after the War, when Weisz returned to Budapest, the first thing he did was knock on these neighbors' doors and, as the color washed out of the faces, entered their apartments with a small gang of hired thugs who seized the stolen furniture, carrying it out on their backs.
So, ultimately, while I don't think it was nearly as captivating as History of Love, it was certainly well-written, and I curiously await Krauss's next work.

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