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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 264

A hallmark of a good book is its prompting its readers to question why nothing quite like it has yet been written. Tracy Kidder's 1985 biographical novel, House, is, in this way, a good book.

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The book's ~300 pages portray the architectural process as a drama, telling the story of a liberal, upper-class couple endeavoring to build their first home in Amherst, Massachusetts. There is a tension between the liberal politics of the couple (enhanced by the notoriously liberal university township in which they are building their home) and the nuts-and-bolts economy with which they approach home-building.

A practical person could argue that the most likely time for personalities to emerge is when individuals have a vested economic interest. Therefore, it is not surprising that the personality of the homeowners, Judith and Jonathan Souweine (a psychologist and attorney, respectively); the architect, William Rawn; and the builders of Apple Corps—Jim Locke, Richard Gougeon, Alex Ghiselin, and Ned Krutsky—disagree periodically throughout the novel.

The book is well-researched, featuring details such as materials and costs. The chapters are divided into the different stages of homebuilding, including the examination of the site, the selection of the materials, and the painting. There are conflicts at every step, representing the nontrivial nature and complexities of home-building.

Such juxtaposition of practical details with emotional displays make for a realistic portrayal of the process of building a home—a process that happens every day but is perhaps the most important commercial venture that the average person is likely to undertake. The novel makes for an illustrative reference for homeowners and builders alike.

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