Amy Reads Books

The History of Love

The History of Love - Nicole Krauss I was attracted to this book by a follower on Tumblr who, after putting up with incessant gushing over Jonathan Safron Foer's 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' pointed out that Nicole Krauss was his wife, and that this novel had some similarities to Foer's. This is true in some ways. There are two strands of the story; with one featuring and older man and one featuring a young girl, and both are in some way about relationships with parents and those around us, but 'The History of Love' is still a different book.Leo Gursky is an elderly man who fled Eastern Europe to escape the Nazi occupation and found himself living in New York, pining for the love of his life, trying to connect with his son who is a famous novelist, and desperatly hoping that he will not be forgotten if he dies. The other strand features Alma Singer, whose father has died, who lives with her brother, Bird, and her mother who is working on translating a copy of the novel 'The History of Love' (which is not the same as Krauss' novel) for a mysterious travelling man. There is also a third strand which is an almost biographical tale of the author of 'The History of Love', Zvi Litvinoff.It's been a while since I actually read this book, but it was packed with twists and turns; as more about Gursky's life is revealed and how he had many rivals for his beloved Alma's affections. His story is definitly one that is deeply sad and his total loneliness is only saved by his discovery of his old friend Bruno who lives next door to him and they attempt to keep each other going; although we soon discover that their friendship isn't as tight as first thought. Meanwhile, the story of Alma Singer really touched me; her desperation to preserve an ideal life for Bird and her worry as his grief seems to manifest itself through claiming that he is the Messiah and his project of building an ark. Reading pieces of 'The History of Love', Alma decides to try and track down the real Alma and the author of the novel.I'll admit to finding Leo an occasionally hard character to sympathise with, especially in the beginning, however he really grew on me as the novel progressed. Alma was also a really well drawn character, although the listing style of her narrative didn't really do much for me, it may have been better if Krauss had just stuck to a traditional journal format. I also loved Bird, as well as Krauss brilliant portrayal of human relationships in general. There were aspects of the novel that I don't think quite gelled, and the final twist to me was a step too far; although I guess I'm going to have to pick up the novel again to see if Krauss hints towards it, because to me it came a little bit suddenly with no foregrounding. All in all though, it's a great story and I'm really, really looking forward to reading 'Great House'.