HOUSE by Tracy Kidder
Kirkus Star


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Kidder is busily at work perfecting the essay form. Here the winner of the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for The Soul of a New Machine has departed from the super-intellectual computer wizards to the sheer brute hard work of building a house. As his genius for simplifying (or humanizing) the computer industry was evident in Soul, so does he manage to make the most impractical of readers feel that they could pack a saw, a level, and a hammer and build a house from scratch. But House isn't just about the act of building. It is about the spirit as well. And much more besides. All of the complex relationships involved in creating a new house are explored in a manner which brings maximum sympathy to all participants: to the owner, who plays a balancing act between the professional wishes of the architect, the practical considerations of the builders, and his own pocketbook; to the builders, who walk a tightrope between craftmanship and the need to turn at least a small profit; and to the architect, who tries to maintain the purity of his vision against the economic encroachments of the other two. Kidder's reputation will grow with this new work, despite a marked propensity midway through for the pace to decelerate. However, he recovers to make the final third of the book a real page-turner. House reads on many levels. It instructs in the history of building in New England (the house is built in Amherst, Massachusetts), explains many of the technicalities of building, and even explores the class distinctions between the professional (the owner is an attorney), the sensitive artist (the architect), and the workers who create the dream. Through it all, we are privy to the craftmanship of an essay-builder par excellence.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1985
ISBN: 0618001913
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin