Laurelfield, a grand old estate north of Chicago, is the centerpiece of Rebecca Makkai’s clever novel. The book begins in 1999 with descendants of the well-heeled Devohr family. Zee Devohr and her husband Doug, both academics, are living temporarily in the coach house. Doug hopes to do research on an obscure poet who lived at Laurelfield when it was an artists’ colony in the 1920s, but Zee’s mother is surprisingly protective of whatever files and artifacts might be in the attic. The narrative travels backward in time, leaping to 1955, 1929, and 1900, revealing Laurelfield’s complicated past and its eccentric occupants. In this reverse chronological order, echoes from the past – and future – are well crafted, and the engaged reader will be rewarded. With its rich detail, fine prose, and dark humor, The Hundred Year House is a unique and satisfying read.
For more eccentric characters in grand settings, try…
The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly is the rollicking novel about a 12-year-old girl’s eventful summer of 1972 on her dysfunctional family’s Cape Cod compound.
In Lauren Oliver’s suspenseful novel Rooms, a troubled family arrives at the mansion of their estranged, recently deceased patriarch, but find there are ghosts too.
In the witty Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia, talented high school musicians and their chaperones descend upon a huge, once-grand hotel in the Catskills for a music festival on the anniversary of a shocking crime.
Set in a haunted mansion in the Pacific Northwest, A Sudden Light by Garth Stein is an atmospheric novel narrated by a 14-year-old boy who embarks on a quest to learn more about the house and his family’s secrets.
An Evening of Long Goodbyes by Paul Murray features colorful characters at a crumbling seaside estate near Dublin, where the cozy existence of 24-year-old Charles is about to be given a serious shake-up.