Two Books

Great House by Nicole Krauss and The Last Life by Claire Messud. After reading A History of Love, I was so looking forward to another Krauss novel. This one, however, has not held me. I started, stopped after 50 pages or so. Picked it up again, persevered for awhile, then put it down again, maybe for good. While I admire her writing itself and appreciate the literary ambition of this particular book - the structure, for example - the unrelenting morose tone was not only heavy but boring to me. So too the abundance of narration over scene creation. The Last Life, by contrast, which is also a sad story, engaged me with its many fully realized, haunting and multilayered scenes. One example, the chapter concerning Alexandre's grandmother's long dying and his attempt to get her coffin aboard one of the last, crowded ships sailing from Algiers to France. I liked the subject matter and settings, too, with which I was not as familiar as those depicted in the Krauss novel. I will read Messud again. Krauss, well... a writer should not write the same book over and over again, but I missed the charm, the humour, the wonderful story, and yes, the structure too of A History of Love.