“The Hundred-Year House” by Rebecca Makkai
Does this cover make you think of children’s books? Or cutesy lit? What a misrepresentation!
I really loved, loved this novel. If I had to make comparisons, I’d say it’s a little bit like a less verbose, Canadian version of Kate Morton, with a touch of DuMaurier’s Rebecca and a little bit of Sarah Waters in the mix. I might also say that it’s structured like a Russian nesting doll, inviting readers to work from the present, outer shell in to the very heart of things.
We start in 1999, in a huge mansion in Canada that served for many years as an artist’s retreat but has, at some point, been returned to the family as a private residence. Zee has moved home with her husband, Doug, and taken up residence in the coach house, just off of the main building (where her mother, Grace, lives). Right off the bat, it’s clear that the house itself is the main character — there are all sorts of family secrets, perhaps even ghosts, hiding in its walls. Next, we work backwards in time to see Grace, Zee’s mother, as a newlywed in the home. This section shines. Finally, we go back even further to the crazy set of artists who lived and loved in the house during its years as an artist’s retreat. (This section was my least favorite, but answered some essential questions.)
I enjoyed the multigenerational story tremendously and am still puzzling out some of the book’s revelations.