The Hundred-year House

The Hundred-year House

Book - 2014
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"A dazzlingly original new novel from the acclaimed author of The Borrower. Now, Makkai returns with an ingenious novel set on an historic estate that once housed an arts colony. Doug, the husband of the estate's heir, desperately needs the colony files to get his stalled academic career back on track. But what he discovers when he finally gets his hands on them is more than he bargained for. Doug may never learn the house's secrets, but the reader will, as Makkai leads us on a thrilling journey into the past of this eccentric family"--
Publisher: New York, New York : Viking, 2014.
ISBN: 9780525426684
052542668X
Characteristics: 338 pages ;,22 cm.

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Birdtrovert
Oct 10, 2019

Honestly, this book had a lot of potential. It sets up an interesting mystery from the first paragraph. A mysterious and unhappy woman who kills herself somehow in this grand house. A haunted house with a curse that seems to make the people there either go mad or die somehow. Or just drive them out altogether. With a large cast of characters, a potential ghost and haunted home, it seems like this would be a mystery that unravels what happened to Violet and everyone else.

The issue is that the book doesn't do that. At all. I mean, it does tell you but it originally sets it up as the characters in the first timeline (1999) figuring out the mystery.

SPOILERS*****

Instead, we get characters with interesting concepts but end up just falling flat in practice. Zee switches between being this horny, loving wife to someone who will actively sabotage a coworker's career. Miriam seems to be this manic-pixie dream girl but is really just wild, unhinged and clearly just horny for Doug. Doug is a writer who feels trapped and pathetic in his own abilities. Case is an asshole that turns into an injured mess who you end up feeling sorry for. Gracie was confusing; she seemed like she had no thoughts or opinions really (and isn't developed more until her section in the 1950s).

These characters sound like they are interesting and have cool concepts, but unfortunately, they fall and crumble into unlikeable and boring people. I thought I would identify with Doug but he easily allows himself to drift away from Zee and cry "why would she leave?" In reality, he continued to lie to her and push her away. He lets himself fall in love with Miriam because it's "destiny" or something. He wants to write more about Edwin Parfitt and ends up writing a tween installment about a girl in soccer. He sees this as disgrace but he really should be accepting it as a challenge or a break so that he feels refreshed for his real project. Zee flip-flops between emotions and morals. She is ready to destroy Cole's career but then decides to help him save it.

Thing is, I get it. But it got boring. The 1999 section was the most interesting but it also felt like it meant nothing. The 1950's section had an interesting concept as well and seems to flesh out Gracie a bit more, but it still leaves more questions as to what Gracie meant when she told Doug about the accident. The 1920's section is a mess. It was boring and confusing. I found myself skimming through each page. I thought learning about Edwin would be cool, but there are too many characters that have no development and very little personality. I think the only interesting part is the idea that Edwin "died" and was possibly reborn as "Max". That's what I got from it at least. The 1900's section (the prologue) is interesting and short. I don't think it was necessary. It's spoiled earlier in the book that Violet starved herself and then mentioned again a couple more times. I think it would have been fine to just say that. Although, I do like that Violet is clearly very unhappy here and seems to feel as if she were forced in this house.

All and all, there are way too many characters to keep track of and some don't even add anything to the story. The story drags on; attempting to set up an interesting mystery that just falls apart and makes you want to skip pages.

ontherideau Apr 23, 2018

The Hundred-year House has the idle rich feel of Great Gatsby in a different time setting.

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yvox
Oct 13, 2016

recommended by Nancy Pearl "charcter driven" 10/12/2016

cmlibrary_myork Dec 11, 2015

A wonderful book that exceeded my expectations. Though the book is slow to start - I was several chapters in before the mystery was introduced - the ultimate result is very satisfying. I was caught off guard in that the story takes place in reverse chronological order and over a century (despite the name of the book!) The first section alone made a wonderful book, but the additional sections did provide more closure. Highly recommended!

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WinstonO
Apr 28, 2015

One of the most boring books I've had the displeasure to read. Plot sounded good but the characters were lame and the storyline dragged.

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Lauren237
Apr 07, 2015

I couldn't finish it, I found myself bored, and not connecting with any of the characters; I found them mostly unlikeable.
There are too many good books out there, and not enough time to read them all, so unfortunately, I had to let this one go, unfinished, and moved on to the next one.

o
occy
Nov 07, 2014

Was quite enjoying this story until I reached about half way thru the book when I started to lose interest. At this stage, I got to the point where I had a job to press on and finish the book. I found a lot of the characters actually annoyed me and I just cldn't keep track of them all.. Definitely a shame as it had such great potential..

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rk2145
Oct 13, 2014

I was disappointed in this book. I had chosen this book because other reviews called it "complex" and "many layered," but I wouldn't call this book that at all. It basically was a "meh" whodunnit. I couldn't find myself caring for any of the characters, which were flat. If you want a book which peels back the layers and explores hidden mysteries through decades, try Kate Atkinson or David Mitchell.

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gusmcrae
Sep 23, 2014

In many ways this is a fantastic book. The first 2 sections of the book grabbed me in and would not let go. Unfortunately, I think the novel fizzled out a bit as it moved towards its conclusion. I think on many levels it's a brilliant book. I just felt like I needed to take notes to follow everything that was going on. And the central mystery of the book--Violet's death--was not addressed clearly enough for my tastes.

But, I give it a fairly high score for how well done it was overall and would still probably recommend the book. Mostly because I'd love to have folks to discuss the book with. Maybe then I'd understand it better.

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becker
Sep 11, 2014

This book had an interesting reverse structure and a solid storyline but the characters failed to make any impression on me and the reverse order made it challenging to follow some of the character threads. Overall it was a good book but not necessarily a great reading experience for me.

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