Friday, October 29, 2010
The So-So House
When I was 9 my favorite book was Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field. Did you ever read that? When Hitty was first published in 1930 it won the Newbery Award that year for the best children's book. Hitty is a doll. She was made in the early 1800s in Maine for Phoebe Preble. Hitty's adventures (and all she learned) with Phoebe and her subsequent owners enthralled me as a little girl and has recently had the same effect on my 10 year old niece. There was lots of action, history, humor and life lessons in Field's book.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. In that novel the travels of a rare, illuminated manuscript are traced through the experiences of several of the owners of the book. Once again lots of action, history and life lessons in a more adult way of course. At the center of this novel is a young woman who is working to restore the priceless text and gets caught up in it's history. People is an exceptional novel that I was able to put/force into a lot of eager hands.
The Great House by Nichole Krauss. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read this novel because I thought The History of Love was a wonderful book. Love is a book within a book about great loves, lost loves and finding love all wrapped around a fifty year old lost novel. Krauss's new book uses the provenance of a 19 drawer desk in order for her to string together some good short stories and call it a novel. The past and present owners of this huge desk are diverse only in the events that cause their sufferings. They are at times a blur of tragedies and isolation that stagnates any interest you have in their lives, losses and the ideas of permanence and memory that Krauss brings to House.
What made me press on and finish The Great House? The writing!Nichole Krauss is an enormously gifted and powerful writer. She is someone who truly can paint a picture with words. There were many times while I was reading House that I had to stop and reread a sentence or a passage so that I could marvel a little longer at her vision and skills. Reading her is like discovering a language you never knew existed. It's all new. I look forward to her next novel, not to another short story collection.
P.S. If you took a look at other new titles in the bookstore in 1930 you would have found: The Maltese Falcon, As I Lay Dying, The Greek Way and Civilization and Its Discontents. Not a bad year, right?