Sep 7, 2015

Book Review: The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

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Review by Suze

It's close to the millennium and Zee and her husband Doug have moved into the outhouse of Laurelfield, the Devohr family estate. Gracie, Zee's mother, and her second husband Bruce are preparing for the Y2K disasters. Zee is working at the university and is doing well, but Doug's research isn't going anywhere. He's looking into the poems and life of Edwin Parfitt who's supposedly lived at the estate when it was still an artist community. Laurelfield fascinates him and instead of working on his academic project he's finding excuses to procrastinate. When another young couple moves into the outhouse he starts to hang out with them more and more, especially Miriam, who's an artist. They're becoming close friends and together they're trying to find out more about the house and the former inhabitants. Then Gracie reveals a shocking secret...

The Hundred-Year House is about all of the generations who have lived at Laurelfield. The book ends with the prologue and it goes backwards in time. It's divided into several different parts. At first I had no idea what I was reading, but that's usually the moment I think it's better to let go of the feeling that I have to hang on to some form of control. I tried to make a mental picture of the house and was fascinated by the history of its inhabitants, especially the artists. There are mysterious deaths, strange relationships and lots of secrets. Soon the book managed to captivate me so much that I couldn't stop thinking about it. I had to keep reading and when I finished it I still felt that same way.

I read the book from beginning to end and then read parts of the beginning again as I wanted to reread them with the new information from the prologue and the chapters before. When I finally knew the secrets I wanted to see if it would change my opinion of the first part of the book. It's such a clever construction and I enjoyed reading it both ways. I'm still thinking about the story and about the brilliance of the man called Edwin Parfitt. The Hundred-Year House isn't an easy story, but it's definitely worth that extra bit of effort. I found the result very rewarding and I can't stop grinning whenever I think about the story.

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