REVIEW: 'The Hundred-Year House,' by Rebecca Makkai

  • Updated: August 2, 2014 - 2:00 PM

“The Hundred-Year House,” by Rebecca Makkai

“For a ghost story, the tale of Violet Saville Devohr was vague and underwhelming,” writes Rebecca Makkai in the opening line of “The Hundred-Year House.” This may be true, but Makkai’s book holds all of the elements of the perfect summer yarn: eccentric artists, a mysterious death, a locked attic door and a large estate that has secrets built into its walls.

Told in reverse chronological order, the house’s dark history is peeled back like old wallpaper as marriages disintegrate, affairs are revealed and academics face their demons in the guise of insipid Young Adult fiction.

Over the course of 99 years — specifically 1999, 1955, 1929 and 1900 — Makkai traces the history of the house as a private residence built for its disconsolate owner, through its long period as a prestigious but struggling arts colony, and then its return to an unhappy home once again.

Think David Lodge meets Maggie Shipstead as Makkai’s suspenseful scene building and comic timing make “The Hundred-Year House” a captivating read.

MEGANNE FABREGA

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  • THE HUNDRED-YEAR HOUSE

    By: Rebecca Makkai.

    Publisher: Viking, 335 pages, $26.95.

    Review: Comic and poignant, this novel by the author of “The Borrower” walks backward through time.

    Event: 7 p.m. Thu., Common Good Books, 38 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul.

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