Healing and the need for validation are significant aspects within the pages of Great House, by Nicole Krauss.
The lives that unfold are unconnected in the present, yet connected within the time continuum, within the folds of history dating back to the destruction of the Temple. One desk, with a locked drawer, sets off questioning within each person involved in the story. Insights begin to illuminate, fostered by an inanimate object, and the desk is often looked at as almost human-like. The desk is seen by some as a sense of security, yet it is really more displacing to the one who owns it. That is one of the sad issues in the story.
Krauss has created mindsets that encompass the various folds of the Jewish religion, and encompass the issues that Jews have faced throughout history.
The inanimate may harbor memories of the past, just through the process of ownership, but in the living are where memories are housed, within compartments of the mind. At times we choose to open a compartment and remember. At times we keep those memories locked in a compartment, never to be released.
Krauss enhances the themes within the pages, and one in particular, transitions back to the destruction of the Temple. Great House is an analogy and metaphor for the Temple and what it stood for. It was THE GREAT HOUSE. We all hold the key to our unlocked stories, albeit, some might be to painful to release. As a whole unit of Jews, they hold a collective key to their past, a past blighted by the destruction of the Temple/Great House, the foundation of Jewish education and history that is carried through the generations, with cognizance or otherwise.
The Jewish people needed to heal through the centuries from all the losses, genocide, destruction, and statelessness. The sense of belonging that is the glue holding them together is a strong theme within the pages, although to some it may seem minor.
Memory and loss might lie dormant within the minds of some of the characters, much like the inanimate desk with its locked drawer. But, at the surface of the different individuals reigns the sameness of reclusive living and aloneness, and the sameness of memory’s repression of Self, and memory’s distortion of the past.
Nicole Krauss is brilliant with word-imagery and in infusing the reader with questions to ponder regarding Judaism and its legacy. I recommend Great House for those reasons.