” There are moments when a kind of clarity comes over you, and suddenly you can see through walls to another dimension that you’d forgotten or chosen to ignore in order to continue living with the various illusions that make life, particularly life with other people, possible. ”
Sure, the acclaimed author’s third novel does real like many illusions strung together. Great House is made up of four stories that Krauss fails to create an intertwining link, or is the loose structure a device? The frame of of the novel is a gargantuan writing desk, which appears at various points in four people’s lives. A reclusive American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young Chilean-Jewish poet, who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s secret police. One day a girl named Leah Weisz claiming to be the poet’s daughter arrives in New York to claim the desk, sending the writer’s life reeling.
I hadn’t had more than three or four relationships, I already knew that each time the thrill of telling another the story of yourself wore off a little more, each time you threw yourself into it a little less, and grew more distrustful of an intimacy that always, in the end, failed to pass into true understanding. 
Despite the sequence of the stories, the desk has spent decades in Europe before reaching America in the 1970s. It may have belonged to Federico Garcia Lorca, poet and dramatist executed by Fascists in 1936, when the Spanish Civil War began. In 1944, the desk (or is it the same desk?) stood in Weisz’s father’s study in Budapest on a night, just before the first stone shattered his window. After the war, in Jerusalem, an antiques dealer hunts furniture looted from Jewish homes by the Nazis. He scours the world for the fragments to reassemble the study’s every element, but the desk eludes him, and he and his children, on whom he exercises tight control over the mission, live at the edges of its absence—until his daughter traces it in Nadia’s apartment in New York.
Before crossing the Atlantic, for almost 40 years, the desk was in England, where a woman, of Polish descent, exhumes the memories she can’t speak except through violent stories she penned. During her waning years, her husband discovers among her papers a lock of hair that unravels a terrible secret.
Terrible things befall people, but not all are destroyed. Why is it that something that destroys one doesn’t destroy another? 
Great House is about memory, false and unreliable. That the narratives don’t neatly snap together somehow serves to illustrate this point. Each of the narrators lives in doubt, even in regret, as the absence of the desk imbues them with an importance, as well as a sense of loss, that inspires careful attention of their lives. Reading becomes very tedious when the profound, digressive and indulgent self-examination isn’t attached to the plot. What purports to have different narrators actually has the same voice, and most absurdly, the same use of similes and metaphors. Voices are not convincing. I cannot help thinking that maybe all that effort put into understanding the interconnections between the narrators is unnecessary, because the whole purpose of the overworked novel is to shine on that state of perpetual regret of the people who long for a place they only know existed in the mausoleum of memory, like the empty drawer of the desk. The writing is as poetic as it is overworked and unfocused.
288 pp. Hardback. [
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Great House is shortlisted for Independent Literary Awards: Literary Fiction.