Book Review and GIVEAWAY – The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
November 23, 2014
Meet the Devohrs: Zee, a Marxist literary scholar who detests her parents’ wealth but nevertheless finds herself living in their carriage house; Gracie, her mother, who claims she can tell your lot in life by looking at your teeth; and Bruce, her step-father, stockpiling supplies for the Y2K apocalypse and perpetually late for his tee time. Then there’s Violet Devohr, Zee’s great-grandmother, who they say took her own life somewhere in the vast house, and whose massive oil portrait still hangs in the dining room.
Violet’s portrait was known to terrify the artists who resided at the house from the 1920s to the 1950s, when it served as the Laurelfield Arts Colony—and this is exactly the period Zee’s husband, Doug, is interested in. An out-of-work academic whose only hope of a future position is securing a book deal, Doug is stalled on his biography of the poet Edwin Parfitt, once in residence at the colony. All he needs to get the book back on track—besides some motivation and self-esteem—is access to the colony records, rotting away in the attic for decades. But when Doug begins to poke around where he shouldn’t, he finds Gracie guards the files with a strange ferocity, raising questions about what she might be hiding. The secrets of the hundred-year house would turn everything Doug and Zee think they know about her family on its head—that is, if they were to ever uncover them.
In this brilliantly conceived, ambitious, and deeply rewarding novel, Rebecca Makkai unfolds a generational saga in reverse, leading the reader back in time on a literary scavenger hunt as we seek to uncover the truth about these strange people and this mysterious house. With intelligence and humor, a daring narrative approach, and a lovingly satirical voice, Rebecca Makkai has crafted an unforgettable novel about family, fate and the incredible surprises life can offer.
Let me just start by saying wow! I loved The Hundred-Year House simply because it was so different. You think it would be impossible to tell a story in reverse chronological order, but Makkai executes it flawlessly. In fact, the novel would not have been as engrossing if the story were told from the beginning. It works because the mysteries are solved as you travel back in time.
The novel is filled with richly developed characters, and I would miss some of my favorites when the story would shift to another time period and they would be gone. I will admit that there were moments when I would lose track of some of the characters and plot lines because this book is just loaded with content. If you dive in though, you will be rewarded with a very satisfying read.
Makkai is a very solid, smart writer. She makes use of beautiful images and metaphors to deepen the plot in a way that is not pretentious. My favorite quote that should appeal to all my bookish friends out there – “He was a transitive verb with no direct object.” In the context of the story, it made perfect sense how Armand was yearning for love!
I have to admit that The Hundred-Year House was not even on my radar until I had the opportunity to hear Rebecca Makkai interview Renee Rosen. It was apparent through her interview, that Makkai is an intelligent and thoughtful person. When I had the chance to get an autographed book, I jumped on it, and I am so glad that I did!
One of my favorite things is when I discover a new author unexpectedly, and I love his or her work. I want to share this enthusiasm with you, so I am hosting my very first GIVEAWAY! YAY!!!!!! I am offering my autographed copy of The Hundred Year House to one lucky winner – US entries only!
Who is the last author you discovered unexpectedly that you fell in love with?