Episode 10: The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai
The title house in The Hundred-Year House is Laurelfield, a house built by the wealthy DeVohr family in 1900. For a period of time in the first half of the century, the estate functioned as an arts colony, a short-term creative refuge for a series of writers, artists, and dancers. When the novel opens, it is 1999, and Laurelfield is again a private residence. Gracie, one of the original DeVohrs, lives in the main house with her second husband; her daughter, Zee, a self-described Marxist literary scholar, and her husband, Doug, live in the coach house. Doug is attempting to turn his dissertation on the poet Edwin Parfitt into a book. As it happens, Parfitt spent time at Laurelfield in its heyday. As Doug delves into Laurelfield's history, other secrets begin to emerge. These unfold as the novel progresses in reverse: a second section taking place in 1955, a third section in 1929, and a final section (titled the "Prologue") set in 1900.
Rebecca Makkai talks about how to tell a story backwards, her choice to include lots of obscure literary references (in the age of google, nothing is truly obscure, she opines), and the audacity of writing a book that implicitly asks its readers to read it twice.
Guest readers Alfie Guy and Alice Baumgartner join host Cyd Oppenheimer to discuss Daphne, Philomela, and laurel trees, coincidence and fate, and how a refuge can also be a prison.