The Hundred-Year House

Viking. Jul. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780525426684. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698163546. F
OrangeReviewStarMakkai's second novel is decidedly not sophomoric; it's a daring takeoff from her entertaining debut, The Borrower. Beginning in 1999 and retreating backward in time to 1900, it chronicles a century in the life of Laurelfield, an estate near Lake Michigan, north of Chicago. The author opens with the ghost story of Violet Devohr, who allegedly killed herself in the attic. Now Zee, Violet's great-granddaughter, is slowly going mad herself. The book takes off in subsequent chapters, and we see how Violet's ghost—or maybe the house itself—affected its inhabitants, many of whom visited for extended periods when Laurelfield served as an artists' colony from the 1930s to the 1950s. Slowly, readers get more clues about the mystery at the book's core, understanding the characters' interconnections.
VERDICT This novel is stunning: ambitious, readable, and intriguing. Its gothic elements, complexity, and plot twists are reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin. Chilling and thoroughly enjoyable. [See Prepub Alert, 1/10/14.]

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