Nicole Krauss’s new novel is a smart and serious meditation on loss and memory. By Patrick Ness
It is difficult to find a profile of Nicole Krauss that doesn’t mention 1) her beauty, 2) her youth or 3) her marriage to Jonathan Safran Foer (even younger, slightly less beautiful). There’s an inevitable air of complaint about these facts, however sympathetically presented, the implication being that her ability to get books published has less to do with talent than with a particularly irritating streak of good luck. ‘Twas ever thus, though the internet has upped the ease of sniping. There are, of course, smart and passionate sites out there by booklovers of all stripes, but there’s also that strangely hostile army of folks who seem to wake up every morning with no other aim than to tell you, as loudly as possible, how much they hate everything you’ve ever loved, especially if it’s written by someone who, to take a random example, is young, beautiful and married to a famous novelist.
I’m reminded of EM Forster’s quote about happiness. Do we find it so often that we “turn it off the box when it happens to sit there”? Are good books likewise so common that we can afford to dismiss them if their writers aren’t at least polite enough to be older than we are? If the book is good, so what? Krauss’s last novel, The History of Love, was very good indeed. Great House, its serious, downbeat follow-up, is even better. And that, really, should be the end of the discussion.