Great House

A Novel
Length: 12 hrs and 34 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (308 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the internationally best-selling author of The History of Love comes this stunning novel. Great House follows the multiple owners of one writing desk and how the desk shapes their lives. A young novelist inherited the desk from a poet taken by Pinochet’s police. Then the desk is stolen from her by the poet’s supposed daughter. In its drawers, another man discovers a long-kept secret about his wife. And a Jerusalem antiques dealer uses the desk in his family’s study, which was devastated by the Nazis in 1944.

©2010 Nicole Krauss (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"This stunning work showcases Krauss's consistent talent.... The sharply etched characters seem at first arbitrarily linked across time and space, but Krauss pulls together the disparate elements, settings, characters, and fragile connective tissue to form a formidable and haunting mosaic of loss and profound sorrow. ( Publishers Weekly)
“The most heartbreaking part of Great House, the third novel by Nicole Krauss, is having to finish it…As the mysteries of this beautifully written novel come spooling out, you’ll marvel at how profoundly one brilliantly crafted metaphor involving a mute wooden artifact can remind us what it means to be alive.” (Rachel Rosenblit, Elle)
“Krauss’ masterful rendition of character is breathtaking, compelling.... This tour de force of fiction writing will deeply satisfy fans of the author’s first two books and bring her legions more.” ( Booklist, Starred Review)

Featured Article: 15 Essential Jewish Authors to Hear in Audio


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What listeners say about Great House

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Beautiful writing, but probably better to read it

This novel and its mediations on loss and loneliness and the connections that the characters from different stories eventually have with each other are hard to dwell on when you are listening to it. I believe that reading it would be better. I got a hard copy and after reading certain sections and seeing words repeated, I was able to make the connections that a careful reader would pick up on, which answered a bunch of questions for me about who is who in the novel. Just listening in the car, this was not something I could do, and I was happy I read it. The different stories all have separate narrators and this was helpful as they are interspersed with each other, and otherwise it would have been hard to know who was talking.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Great House

I totally enjoyed this book. Haven't we all inherited some piece of furniture , or a book, or something that connects us with a very interesting past?

This book grabbed my attention from the very beginning. It is worth a good listen. I even sat down in my living room, after everybody else was in bed ... I enjoyed it.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Deep and deeply satisfying

The stories that comprise the story of the desk, the interconnectedness, the longing, loss and pain are so palpable, so immense that only the desk itself could sort and carry it all. Furniture as character, imbued with life and living, physical and psychological characteristics -- it works.

These are not "vignettes," they are different aspects of the same stories told technically out of chronological order, but artistically told in exactly the right order like the thread of Ariadne, unraveling slowly, surely and completely. Much is left unsaid/unresolved. Questions remain unanswered, but if you can enter the dream of this journey, everything is revealed. The writing is fresh and yet classically constructed. The allusions, ancient and new are guideposts; the characters are cut from one massive fabric of life and yet they are separate and whole. The story is not like a plot. It is a story of many people, many years and many artifacts. Will it change your life? Probably not. Will you laugh? Probably not? Will you weep? Maybe, maybe not. You will recognize yourself and your own thoughts in some passages and you will find nothing of yourself in others. Is it a page-turner? Absolutely? At the end, does it all make sense? Most of it, and yet nothing is senseless or falsely placed. Not for everyone, not nearly as accessible as Krauss' "The History of Love," it is deeper and more challenging. Terrific.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

It wasn't History of Love but....

it was still a good listen! Love the readers she has for her books!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Disjointed, Disconnected, Dry

I thought the book sounded very interesting when I started, but the further I got into it, the more I wondered what it was about. A series of different vignettes all revolving around a desk that really has nothing substantial to do with the meat of the plots. I guess Krauss was trying to come up with a connection between these stories and used a desk to do it. This book did not work for me at all. I felt no connection to any of the characters. Not one was likeable. I did not enjoy the style of writing either, and it was difficult to know which story she was talking about because names were rare throughout the book. Complicated can be good, but in the end you hope for closure or at the very least some sort of connection. I got neither. This was my first and last Krauss book. I read in another review someone said “the thrust is very cerebral, rather than visceral”, as obscure as this statement may be, it does summarize the book rather nicely.
The narration was the only thing that kept me going.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Not such a "great house"

After hearing an interesting, not quite positive, review on NPR, I decided to give this book a try. What a waste of time and money. The story was disjointed and there were no characters I could be interested in. It was overly wordy and even after listening several times to the same section, I was still confused. What was the whole thing about the great white shark? Save your credits or money. I must admit the narration was excellent but still didn't make any of the characters interesting. I hope the story came together at the end,but I didn't get that far.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Weirdly narrated.

What did you like best about Great House? What did you like least?

I think I would have liked this book more if the narration hadn't been so oddly directed. The women narrators were both like public radio announcers, completely without inflection or personality. I don't understand those choices at all. The men were much better, with the possible exception of Weiss at the end... again, very flat.

What gives?

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Great rewards for the patient listener

It's easy to be put off this book...it is densely written, with each character focusing at an almost excruciating level on their inner life.

It's not a happy book. Plus, the multiple narrators relating seemingly unrelated stories could confuse anyone who's not paying attention.

However, this is one of those books that will definitely reward the patient listener.

About loss, death and ultimately the meaning of life, it is a powerful novel, with richly drawn characters. It definitely left me wanting to know more about what came next; and it's one of those rare books that I plan to re-read.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Novel lacks urgency, but has other good qualities

These lines from a review from a site called Bookslut echo my main problem with the book: "Such lyrical philosophizing is typical of Great House, a book told not in scene, but through memories. For this reason, the novel at times feels slow. All action has already occurred and the tension comes not from the moment to moment situation of the characters, but from the meta-narrative that ties the characters together. Though it reaches moments of elegant reflection, the novel lacks urgency." I liked the inner voice of characters reflecting deeply on their lives, but I was confused by one of the narrators who seemed to have zero connection with the desk. I felt like I missed something important, and I probably did, because in listening to a book you can't flip back through the pages.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

I loved Nicole Krauss’s History of Love, and had a good feeling about this book’s tale of a desk that comes into and goes out of the lives of many people. As a writer, I enjoyed what she had to say about writing, and she nailed her description of a marriage going wrong. But I became less and less engaged with the story for two reasons. One, as others have noted, the story is confusing, and as it goes on, there is less inclusion of the desk as a linking factor. Two, and the reason I finally gave up halfway through, the female narrators were so off-putting, even the beautifully-written love/sex scenes came off as clinical notes for a textbook. Another reviewer put it perfectly when she said these narrators sound like NPR hosts. Yes! I could not bear to listen to them. (George Guidall, who was such an important reader of History of Love, is just as wonderful here, but he read only a section.) I depend upon audiobooks because reading triggers my chronic migraines. I am going to make note of these narrators’ names so I can be more discerning with my future choices.