BOOK: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (2005)

Man, I was all set to rave about this brilliant, brilliant, moving, and brilliant novel until I looked up author Nicole Krauss and found out she’s a year YOUNGER than I am.  Now I’m consumed by too much self-loathing and jealousy to be able to think of anything interesting to say about her book.

I’ll suck it up.  Give me a minute.


Let me begin by saying this novel took me over a month to read, not because it’s long, not because it’s boring, not because of anything negative about it whatsoever, but simply because it made me cry every ten pages or so and that made it hard for me to, for example, read it on the bus.

The novel tells two stories from two narrators, and it seems clear from the first page that these stories will eventually intertwine — what’s less clear, even at the half-way mark, is HOW they will intertwine.  The first tale is the one that had me bawling on a regular basis — it’s about an elderly man, Leo Gursky, a Jew who lost his entire family in the Holocaust and eventually lost the love of his life as well (they got separated during the war and when he couldn’t find her for years afterward, she lost hope and made the painful decision to marry  someone else).   Leo is a lonely man, despite the daily presence of his strange and wonderful best friend Bruno, and his greatest fear is that he’ll die completely unseen.  For that reason, he goes out every day and does things like knock over display stands in stores — on purpose, to be noticed.  To be looked at, talked to, maybe smiled at.   Once, he even agrees to pose nude for an art class, just to give himself the hour-long sensation of being visible.

Oh, break my heart, Leo Gursky, you wonderful, hurting man.  And then let me kiss you tenderly on the aged cheek every night before bed until you are finally gone from this world.  It’s all I will take — I won’t settle for less.  I love you.  I love you.  I love you.

The second story is about a young girl, Alma Singer, desperately trying to find a boyfriend for her widowed mother, while also struggling to keep a strong hold on the memories of her dead father.  When a man writes her mom asking for her help in translating an old book, The History of Love, from Hebrew to English,  Alma becomes obsessed with him, writing letters pretending to be her mother in an attempt to forge a connection that might finally pull her mom out from under the heavy veil of depression that’s been dragging her down for years.

How these two stories end up converging, I’m going to leave for you to discover.  Suffice it to say I found this entire book absolutely breathtakingly-written, sentence after sentence of the most empathetic and powerful prose I have encountered in a very long time.  I could hardly stand to read it at times, it was that goddamn good.

And if that’s not enough to get you to give it a try, maybe this will do the trick — the last two sentences of this book, soft punches to the heart, are:

He fell in love.  It was his life.

Oh, beauty.  Such beauty.   Buy it, read it, be changed.  It’s worth the tears.

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One Response to “BOOK: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (2005)”

  1. Hollie Says:

    Geez, just reading this review got me teary! I’m in!

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