2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
May 9, 2006
I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed this but because I read both books recently and they sit next to each other on my shelf, I couldn't help noticing some similarities between "The Giant's House" by Elizabeth McCracken and the later bestseller "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger. For one thing, just look at the covers next to each other: both feature two pairs of shoes with empty shoes representing the tragic heroes. The subject of both is very similar: a tale of love and loss between an ordinary woman and an extraordinary man (giant vs. time traveler) who meet when one of the characters is very young. I'm not bringing this up to accuse anyone of anything, but to say that if you like one read the other.
Speaking just for "The Giant's House" it really is a tremendous debut novel. Peggy's narration is often witty and cynical without being too bitter or self-pitying. The book is populated with interesting characters from James the giant to his tragically unhappy mother to Oscar with his get-rich schemes and ultimately to the infamous Mr. C. Sweatt. Peggy is actually the least interesting character which is by design because she's narrating and she doesn't see herself as particularly interesting or unique.
I noticed one review where someone said they didn't understand why Peggy loves James. The answer to that is simple: a mutual loneliness and love of books. James' size keeps him isolated from other people, who drop by his house and come up to him on the street to gawk and ask inane questions about how much he eats. Peggy is similarly isolated as the town librarian; she's around the people and town but not really a part of anything. It's this mutual feeling of isolation and loneliness that allows Peggy to overlook James' height and his age to fall in love.
The story follows James from 12 until his death a decade later and how Peggy becomes increasingly a part of his life. First she helps him find books, then brings books to him, and soon is helping to design his house and spending most of her free time there with him. James has to make sacrifices--including a brief stint as a circus performer--to make the money needed to provide for his unique needs and never can live a truly "normal" life.
My only real complaint is that the end gets a little too rushed, going into summary mode for the last ten pages or so. Also, what wasn't clear to me was why Peggy lies about the father of her child. Still, those are minor imperfections in a great novel and can be easily overlooked. And I have to mention the shorter length is one reason "Giant's House" is better than the other book I mentioned earlier, although I suppose it's funny a book about a giant is only average sized.
This is one of the best first novels I've read. I highly recommend it.
That is all.