On the surface, Nicole Krauss’s new novel is a finely constructed, beguiling book, taking in a host of grand themes – love, loss, art, genocide – with a delicate touch. There is much to be seduced by. Krauss chooses her ingredients carefully, earnestly: broken relationships and diminished hopes; striving poets and struggling writers; domineering fathers; absent mothers; hereditary scarring; the ghosts of the Holocaust. Moreover, she writes with perfect poise and weaves her plot around a nifty narrative MacGuffin that keeps the reader eagerly turning the pages.
But appearances can be deceptive. Great House is composed of weighty things, marvellously rendered, and yet it doesn’t feel complete. Despite the patent accomplishments, there is a lack at its centre, almost a sense of its author writing to a formula. Granted, the formula is an engaging one.