The History of Love – Nicole Krauss

Last weekend was one of those weekends that come along every now and again where I didn’t get anywhere near a book, let alone have time to read a page or two. As I’m a homebody at heart it has been nice this week for normal reading to resume. My train book at the moment is Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, a book that’s been on my wish list for a while, spurred on recently I’m sure by the release of the film. This is my third read of Murakami’s and I’m going to hold off thinking too much about it until the end – I’m under half way through so am thinking there is still time for it to work its magic (she says crossing fingers and toes…)

Onto The History of Love. This is a book I have vaguely been aware of but never been drawn to pick up before until I read reviews of Nicole Krauss’s latest novel Great House. It really appeals to me so I thought I would try her earlier novel first.

Nicole Krauss’s characters in this novel are beautifully painted, flaws included. They are special and it is easy to be swept up in the emotion of their lives. The writing is beautiful and heartfelt, full of depth and humour. It is all about love, loss and loneliness. The History of Love of the title is a book, a book that brings the characters in the story together.

There are two main characters, Leo Gursky, a Polish holocaust survivor, now in his eighties and living an achingly solitary life in New York; trying to live while waiting to die. Each day he creates little scenes to make people notice him, from deliberately spilling his coffee at Starbucks to volunteering as a nude drawing model. Sixty years on he ruminates on the one love of his life Alma.

MY NAME IS LEO GURSKY I HAVE NO FAMILY PLEASE CALL PINELAWN CEMETERY I HAVE A PLOT THERE IN THE JEWISH PART THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

Across town, a 14 year old girl named Alma is also dealing with loneliness and loss following the death of her father and the withdrawal of her mother and brother. Sensing something redemptive in her mothers favourite book The History of Love, she seeks to find out more about it.

So, my thoughts on it… I’m not sure that I've read a book about the journey of a book yet that I've really loved. I love the concept of it and definitely appreciate and admire those that I've read (apart from Shadow of the Wind which I didn't get at all) but so far there has been something that doesn=t completely gel. This is true for me with The History of Love also. Poignant characters whose separate stories were wonderful (especially the old man Leo) but when it came time for the stories to combine it didn't seem to match the beauty of the individual stories and I was disappointed with the ending. I also found it hard to follow in places. Having to struggle with the plot didn't seem in keeping with the effortless portrayal of the individual characters.

Having said that, I'm still very keen to read Great House. I will just make sure I choose the right time to curl up with it.

2005, 254 pages

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19 responses to “The History of Love – Nicole Krauss

  1. Just love this book, am moved to tears by portions of it, and found Great House just as satisfying a read. And finding just the right time for it is key I think – one of those ones taken better in a few big doses than spread out over a long read. Enjoy it.

    • Frances – I agree, some portions of the book are just incredible and heartbreaking in their rawness. A good suggestion to read in big chunks, I think I will do that when I read Great House, maybe over a weekend toally immerse myself in it. Glad to hear you loved it and thanks for stopping by.

  2. I have placed a reserve on both of the Nicole Krauss books; thanks for your recommendation! Annie

  3. The relationship of the book is so confusing that I drew a chart to clear my head:

    http://bibliojunkie.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/nicole-krauss-the-history-of-love/

    Overall I love some parts but hated others, uneven to say the least. I am not sure if I’ll read the Great House. Krauss left me cold.

    So glad you are reading Norwegian Wood though!

    • JoV – I’ve just read your excellent review and love your chart! I agree it was uneven and I’m expecting Great House to be similar – the question is can the beautiful voices make up for a maybe meandering plot? Hmmm, it’s not the first time I’ve asked myself that and am not sure yet of the answer…. 0:)

  4. I really must get round to Krauss at some point ,may try great house first thou as that seems the slightly better book ,all the best stu

    • Stu – Without knowing much about either book, Great House would have been my first choice too if my library had had it. I’ll look out for your thoughts on it if you do end up reading it.

  5. This one is on my TBR shelf, I must get to it soon. I think Great House sounds really interesting as well.

  6. Joanne – thank you for taking the time to comment. I don’t think I have discovered your blog before. How exciting – I’m going to pop over and visit 0:)

  7. A friend just recently recommended this to me so it felt very timely to read your thoughts on it! I’m not sure now whether I’ll like it or not – but I’m definitely interested in reading it.

    • Kristin – I feel that way about Great House now – not sure if I will 100% like it but want to give it a go. It’s funny you mentioning that a friend recommended The History of Love – it’s such a personal thing isn’t it whether or not we like a book. I hope you do like it. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. I began Norwegian Wood before my Lenten “sacrifice”, but didn’t finish it yet…looking forward to returning to it after Easter. I’ve read that it’s the closest of all Murakami’s books to realistic fiction. But, he couldn’t write anything I wouldn’t love.

    I own The History of Love, but I haven’t read that yet, etiher. Goodness sakes, I’m wondering what I have read!

    Thanks for the good reminders. đŸ˜‰

    • Bellezza, you made me laugh – thank you! I very much admire your “sacrifice” and for choosing something that is a genuine challenge, what a pleasure it will be to return to a Murakami book at the end of it. I’m finding Norwegian Wood quite different to the other 2 books I’ve read of his – it is a lot more realistic so far.

  9. Thanks for your honest review. I have this book but have not opened it yet. I am not sure when I will actually read it–maybe this summer.

  10. Suko – You’re welcome. I will look out for your thoughts when you do get to it. I think it would be a good book to read over a few long hot lazy days – I think it would be easier to follow that way rather than reading it in smaller bits like I did.

  11. Happen to LOVE Nicole Krauss, but I haven’t gotten around to this one yet! I’ve heard mixed things, but I’m willing to give it a go considering how much I like the other Krauss I’ve read. Plus, she’s married to Jonathan Safron Foer, and how cute is that?! Thanks for the great review.

  12. Chelsea – I’m thinking maybe you have read Krauss’s first book, great to hear you loved it. I can see easy it would be to love her writing, I’m not quite there yet but am willing to work on it! I have to admit I don’t know who Jonathan Safron Foer is but am about to investigate…

  13. You wrote a beautiful review despite your claim that it lacked connection for you. I recently finished this and thought it just wonderful. But it IS good to find that not everyone loves it so, otherwise I would have to distrust it a bit.

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