THE GIANT'S HOUSE by Elizabeth McCracken


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 McCracken's eccentric debut tale of a prim librarian's secret passion for the town giant presents an intriguing premise--one that is finally muted, unfortunately, by the excessively restrained tone of the narrator. Peggy Court, the newly appointed librarian to a small Cape Cod town in the 1950s, first meets James Carlson Sweatt when, as a six feet two inches tall 11-year-old, he is part of a school field trip to her circulation desk. A bright, curious boy, James immediately wins Peggy's icy heart, and they build a relationship based on a mutual interest--the pursuit of knowledge. As he grows older (and taller by the year--James suffers from a form of giantism in which the person never stops growing), and after the suicide of his mother, the two forge a rather curious bond. Lonely, bitter Peggy, ostensibly part caretaker, part mother figure, is in reality the one in need: Charismatic James, it seems, has plenty of friends and interests and, in fact, saves Peggy from her misanthropic self. Though James lives happily with his aunt and uncle, Peggy becomes obsessed during their ten-year relationship with James's needs, having a proportionate house and furniture built for him, and a car modified for his size. She sees to his medical problems, accompanies him on promotional tours, and chaperons his one-week stint as a headliner for the circus. Though their ``romance'' is the novel's concern, Peggy, narrating in flashbacks, is overly protective of her memories and vague as to the parameters of her love, thereby excluding the reader from a deeper engagement. Finally, after James's inevitably young death, the story takes a bizarre turn when Peggy has a one-night stand with James's grieving father, then claims that the child from that union was fathered by James. A promising idea, ultimately disappointing in execution: McCracken's first novel lacks the one aspect vital to its success- -concern for the lovers. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-31433-7
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996


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