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Great House (Krauss) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Great House:

1. What is this book about? How does the desk—and its 19 drawers—serve as a metaphor? A metaphor...for what?

2. The book explores the burden of memory and loss. In what way are Krauss's characters trapped by their past? What, in fact, does it mean to become a prisoner of the past? Apply that thought/question to your own life.

3. Spend time talking about each of the stories: narrators and characters. How are they related to the desk—what is the desk's importance to each?

4. Which of the narrators or characters are most sympathetic? Which ones are least sympathetic? Which story do you find most engaging? Least engaging?

5. Who is "Your Honor"—the judge whom Nadia addresses? What is the question that Nadia is pursuing in Israel? What epiphany does Nadia finally attain?

6. Recall Arthur's meditation on life's impermanence: he saw his life as...

a giant empty field where every day a circus erected and dismantled itself...from top to bottom, but never the same circus, so what hope did we really have of ever making sense of ourselves, let alone another?

What does he mean? Does his observation resonate with you? How is that observation played out over and over throughout this book?

7. Talk about Lotte's secret—and why she never shared it with her husband. Why had she never shared her secret with Arthur? Why did she do what she did?  Why at the end does Arthur do what he does with the scrap of paper?

8. Why Aaron and his story about Dov included as a narrator in this work? What is the significance of the chapter title his narration, "True Kindness"? What do you think will happen when he arrives at the hospital?

9. What is the thematic significance of George Weisz's observation about his role in locating goods looted by the Nazis:

My business has always been to listen.... Like a doctor, I listen without saying a word. But there's one difference: when all of the talking is through, I provide a solution. It's true, I can't bring the dead back to life. But I can bring back the chair they once sat in, the bed where they slept.

10. What power does Weisz have over his Yoav and Leah? Why do they behave so submissively toward him? Why does Leah withhold the location of the desk from her father?

11. How do you understand the last sentences of the book. Disappointment...and relief—for what...and why? 

11. Does the desk work as an organizing principle for this novel? Or does it make for a structually clumsy and confusing story?

12. What is the significance of the title, "Great House"?

13. In a New Yorker magazine interview (June 14, 2010), Krauss says that good fiction has the "ability to remind us of ourselves, of who we are in our essence, and at the same instant to deliver a revelation." Does Great House fulfill that goal for you?

14. Maureen Corrigan (NPR review) refers to Krauss as a "fiction pioneer...giving us readers the thrill of seeing the novel stretched into amorphous new shapes." Do you agree that Krauss is a "pioneer"—does this novel break new ground? Why...or why not?

15. Is this book too cerebral—too intellectually driven—to hold your attention? Do you wish it had a stronger plot? Or do you find Krauss's philosophical explorations compelling?

16. If you've read Krauss's previous book, The History of Love, how do the two novels compare with each other? What similarities do they share?

17. Nicole Krauss is married to Jonathan Safran Foer. Is that cool, or what?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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