Book Review

July '14

The Hundred- Year House (Hardcover)
Rebecca Makkai

I enjoyed reading the Hundred-Year House, and it has really stuck with me.  If I had time, I would read it again to be sure I understand how all the pieces fit together!  It is set on an old family estate, Laurelfield, in what feels like Lake Forest.  The setting was once an artist's colony, much like our own Ragdale.  The owners of the estate, the Devohr family, are eccentric, elusive, unstable, mysterious, and it seems as if a few of the late Devohrs are still present on the property as ghosts!  

Written in four parts, the author takes us backward through the story, which in itself is intriguing.  The first part begins in 1999, the next part 1955, third part is 1929, and the prologue, which comes at the end of the book, is set in 1900.  The opening section introduces the reader to the adult children of the reigning Devohrs, who are living in the old coach house with their spouses while they figure out what to do next.  Central questions are introduced; what happened to the artist's colony, why did it close?  The portrait of the matriarch, Violet, which hangs in the dining room - what happened to her?  It is rumored that the poet Edwin Parfitt had been artist in reidence several times, and the Devohr son in law is researching him - but why can't he find anything about the man?  Why is the attic of the main house locked?  Where are the records?  As the book progresses, these and many other intrigues seem about to be solved, as back stories are revealed, but just when you think you are about to say "AHA!", something else happens and you need to know more.  A good read, could be good for book club discussions.