ONE OF THE MOST LOVED NOVELS OF THE DECADE.A long-lost book reappears, mysteriously connecting an old man searching for his son and a girl. eBook . Home; The History of Love He spends his days dreaming of the love lost that sixty years ago in Poland inspired him to write a. Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive. But it wasn't always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book With virtuosic skill, and soaring imaginative power, Nicole Krauss gradually draws.
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With a name meaning soul and a body strikingly beautiful, Gursky decided at age ten that Mereminski would be the one true love of his life, even carving their initials into a special tree. The young lovebirds knew that their love was something special; however, the Nazis posed an even greater threat, and the Mereminski family fled to New York in , not before Alma became pregnant with Leo's child; something neither was aware of.
Hiding in the forest for the duration of the war, Leo reached New York years later and learned about his son's existence. Named Isaac after a great Jewish Russian writer, the boy would go on to become a prolific writer in his own right yet pain Leo for the rest of his life. Prior to going into hiding, Leo had written a manuscript that was close to his heart entitled The History of Love.
He entrusted Zvi Litvinoff with this book for safekeeping, knowing that Litvinoff was fortunate enough to be leaving for the safety of Chile. Little did Gursky know that years later Litvinoff would change the language from Yiddish to Spanish and pass off this eloquent book as his own. Years later, fourteen year old Alma Singer, named for the protagonist in History of Love, stumbles across a letter from one Jacob Marcus who is asking Alma's mother Charlotte to translate the book from Spanish to English.
As she discovers discarded translations in the trash, Alma undergoes a personal quest to discover who her namesake was and why this protagonist named Alma profoundly moved her father to gift his copy of The History of Love to her mother. In this process of self discovery, Alma unearths many answers as well as questions about both her father, her namesake, and their past.
In true Krauss fashion, she weaves together these three plot lines without either protagonist knowing of each other's existence.
Gursky lives inside his memories hoping for one chance meeting with his son, who has know idea who his real father is. Alma is also searching for Alma Mereminski or someone who can provide clues as to who she was. Encouraged by her uncle to stop constantly grieving for her father, she is urged to step outside of her comfort zone of writing and books. As she matures, Alma learns clues about the History of Love, her father, and herself.
Meanwhile, Krauss intersperses the sections about Gursky and Singer with the story of Litvinoff's life in Chile and how History of Love came to be.
All three stories are moving and eventually come to a nexus toward the novel's denouement. As with Nicole Krauss' two other novels that I have read, in History of Love I experienced mature literary fiction which had a profound impact on me.
I think I was moved the most by this novel because I have a daughter named Alma and I was touched by the protagonist Alma's capacity to love amidst her grieving. This added personal twist seems to be a page out of Krauss' mature style of writing that I have come to love and look forward to.
She has certainly done well given a room of her own in which to write, and has become a leading contemporary literary fiction author. Having caught up with her novels, I happily anticipate the day she publishes her next novel, whenever that may be. View all 29 comments. Feb 12, Emily May rated it really liked it Shelves: I tend to be an emotional reader and my ratings reflect that. This is why some classics get 1 star and J.
Rowling gets 5 stars and even Twilight gets 2 stars - I feel it's almost impossible to objectively judge quality of writing and literary value, so I usually rate based on the emotional effect the book had on me. That being said, I occ I tend to be an emotional reader and my ratings reflect that.
That being said, I occasionally think there are some books that are just built on a clever concept and become better the more you sit and think about what you've just read. In my opinion, The History of Love is one of those books. For one thing, this novel is something of a work of art.
The graphic design - even of the dedications page - feels important to the novel without seeming overly gimmicky. I've actually always loved the concept of a book within a book: In this case, the story features a book entitled - you guessed it - The History of Love , which carries an obituary at the end identical to the one at the end of this book.
The real message behind the story is that by writing about things and stories, people who are dead and experiences that are long past are given the opportunity to live on through words.
The fictional The History of Love in the story stays alive across time and continents because people read it and keep the memories alive. The implication with the ending of this book is that Krauss is doing the same and encouraging readers to keep Leo and his story alive.
Another thing I love is having very different stories that run parallel to one another and intersect in ways you wouldn't imagine. I like the exploration of how small, subtle things can shape people's lives and how one unsuccessful author can have such a huge effect on the life of someone they never met. I guess in some ways it did make me feel quite emotional, but it took some thinking about first.
I found Leo Gursky to be exactly the kind of character who evokes sympathy from me, but especially within this kind of context. We are introduced to him as an aging and extremely lonely man who is preoccupied with his own mortality and impending death. Once upon a time, Leo lived in Poland, fell in love with a woman called Alma, and wrote her a book he called The History of Love which he believes was lost in a flood.
But with fascism on the rise in Germany, however, Alma's father sends her to the United States where she builds a new life that Leo isn't a part of. When Leo finally makes it to the USA, he has no place in Alma's life and must forge a new lonely existence in a strange country.
Meanwhile, another story is taking place somewhere completely different. A teenage girl called Alma was named after the character in The History of Love - her parents' favourite book that was , in fact, published - and she is currently trying to deal with the death of her father. In yet another parallel story, Zvi Litvinoff is the man who stole and published Leo's manuscript and now feels a terrible guilt for doing so.
All these lives move alongside one another, rarely actually touching, but making waves for the others all the same. For me, the real message here is about the power of words and stories. How they can shape lives and have long-term effects that most of us don't recognise as they're affecting us.
It's about the power that lies in being able to tell your story and having it be heard. It took me a while to compile my thoughts, but I highly recommend this book for those looking for a thought-provoking little read.
Dec 30, Candi rated it it was amazing Shelves: Alma Singer is a fourteen year old girl who lost her father and whose heart aches for the mother that can barely get out of bed and make it to the next day - "My mother is lonely even w "All I want is not to die on a day when I went unseen. Alma and her brother, Bird, have each other, but Alma needs her mother to be happy and live in this world once again, not simply by getting by with just her memories.
Alma begins a quest to find a partner for her mother and becomes involved in researching the background of this book. Litvinoff, too, suffers from his own private sorrow and grief, but is the fortunate recipient of loyalty and love from a woman named Rosa. Litvinoff has achieved some fame in his life with the publication of his book, "The History of Love". There it is again, that book… "The History of Love.
There is a puzzle to solve here and we are only given snippets of the answers a little at a time. I must say that you have to be ready to devote your full attention to this book — so choose a time when you can do just that! I am very glad I read this after the holiday season; otherwise I admit that I may have gotten lost through the intricate weaving of the threads of this story.
However, if you can devote your time and truly focus, the payoff is well worth it!
My heart ached for Leo Gursky and young Alma Singer. There are moments of humor, however, when Leo exerts such efforts to get himself noticed. Of course, love is a central theme in this book - love for a soul-mate, love for a mother, love for a son, love for a father, and love for the friend that helps you get through each day. The writing is exquisite and often quite lyrical. After reading this, it struck me that one cannot simply survive on memories alone, no matter how precious those memories may be.
Trying to sustain oneself with the past keeps us from really living in the present. I will not soon forget The History of Love. I felt dark and hollow.
Abandoned, unnoticed, forgotten, I stood on the sidewalk, a nothing, a gatherer of dust. People hurried past me. And everyone who walked by was happier than I. I felt the old envy. I would have given anything to be one of them. View all 61 comments.
Nov 11, Michelle rated it it was amazing Shelves: This one particular sentence left me with a heaping serving of "the feels" and so without a second thought, I chucked the book I was reading at that time and started reading "The History of Love. The story is more heart-breaking, in a way. I'm quite happy to be proven wrong, though.
Sad as it may be, the prose could take your breath away. I discovered another work of art, more beautiful than that one sentence that lead me to it. It's more like a meditation on love, or an exploration of love.
It's the story of a bunch of people who are not only searching for love, but also searching for themselves, and trying to find their places in the world. Once the characters' lives intertwine, the ending introduces questions of fate, destiny, and the things that connect us to each other and to the universe. More than that, though, the ending reaffirms the power of love no, not the sappy 80's song! It sustains through the years and unites people across decades, miles, and circumstances.
In the end, even though it isn't the romance I was hoping to read, I still came away feeling pretty darn good about love and love stories. How is it that even the people who have suffered the most from having fallen in love still remember it as the most precious thing in the universe?
How do the folks who have not yet experienced it know it when they see it? And what in the world would be in the pages of the actual history of love? I don't think one volume would cut it! The book, unfortunately, doesn't give simple answers—but, of course, love is nothing if not complicated.
View all 22 comments. Sep 03, Katie rated it it was amazing Shelves: Leo is the obvious charmer of this novel, an elderly man who escapes the Nazis as a boy and eventually follows the love of his life to America where he discovers she has married someone else. Leo holds the torch for Alma throughout his long life. He has also written a novel, The History of Love, the manuscript of which he entrusted to a friend and believes forever lost. His novel is the holy spirit of this novel. Every character is profoundly affected by it.
I found some of the humour too slapstick. It was Alma who won me over. Alma is the second narrator. The first mystery in a succession surrounding this book. Her father is dead when the narrative begins. Alma is a brilliant humorous portrait of an adolescent girl who has lost her father and is dealing with a grief-stricken mother and a traumatised younger brother. Her mother is a translator and is excited when she is commissioned to translate The History of Love into English.
All the characters live obsessively in the past. It's a novel about lost edens, about coming to terms with the present when the past is more inspiring, more magical. But because of its humour and vitality Krauss does a fabulous job of making the present a constant cause for celebration.
But ultimately a lovely heartwarming novel written with fizzing joie de vivre about the joys, sorrows and compensations of love. View all 54 comments. Feb 28, Sansanee rated it really liked it Shelves: Have you ever felt so moved that it's as if you're possessed? Reading The History of Love was like having my chest cracked open, the words flooding into me. Some passages I loved: The floorboards creaked under my weight.
There were books everywhere. There were pens, and a blue glass vase, an ashtray from the Dolder Grand in Zurich, the rusted arrow of a weather vane, a little brass hourglass, sand dollars on the windowsill, a pair of binoculars, an empty wine bottle that served as a candle holder, Have you ever felt so moved that it's as if you're possessed?
There were pens, and a blue glass vase, an ashtray from the Dolder Grand in Zurich, the rusted arrow of a weather vane, a little brass hourglass, sand dollars on the windowsill, a pair of binoculars, an empty wine bottle that served as a candle holder, wax melted down the neck.
I touched this thing and that. At the end, all that's left of you are your possessions. Perhaps that's why I've never been able to throw anything away. Perhaps that's why I hoarded the world: And this: Every year, the memories I have of my father become more faint, unclear, and distant. Once they were vivid and true, then they became like photographs, and now they are more like photographs of photographs. But sometimes, at rare moments, a memory of him will return to me with such suddenness and clarity that all the feeling I've pushed down for years springs out like a jack-in-the-box One more line, one that caused the words to swim on the page for me: There is a literary mystery, at the heart of which is a love story that inspires other love stories, so that the novel itself is a history of love.
View all 5 comments. Aug 08, Dolors rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Do you want TRUE literature? Another book about everlasting love? How many times has the issue been discussed to death?
T housands. This book is about a rare kind of love; a unique one that is fathomless and can only be expressed by the delicate hands of a virtuoso that reveals in the silences between words left unsaid, between the commas and the semicolons. Because an emotion as deep as the love depicted in The History of Love cannot be pinned down by conventional language.
Gestures, the aid of several senses worki Another book about everlasting love? Gestures, the aid of several senses working together and intuition intervening at once are required. Tap Tap. Nicole Krauss mingles unpretentious intellect with fresh humor and tenderness to present sobering themes such as the permanent damage the Holocaust left on survivors or the clashing of the rigid layers, individual and collective, that compose identity; and uses them as backdrop to solve the puzzle of the four non-chronological narrative voices that fly off the pages to disclose their seemingly unconnected stories.
Appearances tend to be deceitful and the key to solve this tragicomic mystery lies within the written pages of a lost —or maybe usurped? Leo Gursky wants to be noticed, to be made tangible through interaction with strangers, for he has led a phantasmagorical existence that is only real in his memories of life before the war. Now an elderly man in New York, he is trapped in a deadlock between his traumatic past in occupied Poland and his insipient present.
Alma Singer is only fourteen-years old but very mature for her age. She has set her mind on tracking down the woman she was named after following the thread of a special book that her mother is translating into English, which was a cherished present given to her by her deceased husband, whom she still mourns seven years after his death.
Zivi Litvinoff shared his youth and his desire to become a writer with Gursky and published his only literary work, once stablished in Chile, because his devoted wife Rosa insisted on its precious and rare value.
The pieces are set. Do you want to play? The result of this game is what first-rate, inventive storytelling should be. Light and weighty. Witty and heartbreaking. Tragic and serene. The result is also a cinematic alternation of overlapping story lines, which in spite of its fragmentary layout, achieves a common, poetic atmosphere capable of prevailing over the dissimilar menagerie of narrators and the atemporal maps from where they leap off the page and become real to the baffled reader.
He was a great writer. Neither can I. View all 60 comments. Nov 17, Idarah rated it it was amazing Shelves: I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about its premise. All I knew was that it is highly regarded by many of my Goodreads friends.
What you should know is that right after I finished reading it, I spent the rest of the day rereading and underlining passages and clues I might have overlooked.
Did you find yourself "If you don't know what it feels like to have someone you love put a hand below your bottom rib for the first time, what chance is there for love?
Did you find yourself doing the same thing after watching The Sixth Sense for the first time? Don't lie! This book is a compelling, heartwarming study of loneliness, loss and adolescence. At least ten to fifteen characters are inadvertently drawn together by a book published soon after World War II called The History of Love. The mystery behind its author and publication, and the different lives it touches up to present day unfold in a series of personal journal entries.
Not enough to cry, but enough to remind me that I am human, and that we all have personal circumstances that we're struggling to overcome.
Sometimes one good day in a gloomy month is so precious that we dread the setting of the sun. The more I think about it, the more questions I have. Love is such a complex thing, whether it's fufilled, reciprocated, or never comes to fruition That is pretty powerful, and Krauss did a magnificent job of relaying that message.
View all 32 comments. Sep 11, Jon rated it really liked it. How about the history of me bawling my face off. View all 3 comments. This book is all about words — words written, words unwritten, words spoken, words unspoken, words imagined, words deleted, words carried, words discarded, words believed, words treasured.
Does that make the book complex? Oh no, no; it makes it magical. Magic, as I see, is a beautiful truth suddenly broken to us. Leopold Gursky is a recluse years old Jewish Man of Polish origin, presently residing in America in a quiet neighbourhood whose silence is splintered by his only and eccentric childhood friend, Bruno. Having lost in love 60 years ago, he has survived most of his life drinking the fleeting images of his son, Isaac a famous writer , from afar.
His only wish now — his son reads the manuscript his scrawny fingers have jabbed on the typewriter in the past few years post a heart attack. In the same country but another world, lives the curious and awkward year old Alma Singer who is trying hard to reignite the love her mother has relinquished after losing her husband to cancer. When a letter arrives one day from a certain Mr. As I read page after page, the sentiments seeped into the words became clearer — like some kind of a haze that one slowly peels off a window, one brush at a time.
And the scenery that emerged as a result, was a gossamer of young dreams and old lessons, assimilating into each other to keep the magic called love , alive. It is the bird that flutters on many windows but settles on that one which shelters it across all seasons. The exchanges between friends, the response to tragedy, the adrenaline rush to fight impersonation, the willingness to sacrifice, the aspiration to pull off the unthinkable - the delightful narrative arc contained these themes with a mystery angle on one side and a biblio-slant on the other.
And this approach imparted such a refreshing suppleness to the story that when the finale played out, I was transported to the venue and was made to feel completely at home.
View all 48 comments. Oct 29, Elyse Walters rated it it was amazing Shelves: I'll read it again!!!!!! Mar 05, Christy rated it really liked it Shelves: What I like about Krauss's novel. Leo Gursky's melancholy, lonely presence.
The sections of the novel told from his perspective are hauntingly beautiful. Alma's precocious teenager voice. Her voice is less compelling for me than that of Leo Gursky, but still good. The slow development of the connections between Leo, Alma, Zvi Litvinoff, Isaac, and the book The History of Love , in terms not only of plot but of theme.
What is mildly irritating about the book. Leo's habit of saying "And yet. Each of her sections of the book is written in list form. It gets old after a while, even though it's an interesting conceit. The introduction of Bird, Alma's brother, as a new narrator in the last 30 or so pages of the novel. I would've preferred Krauss to find another narrative device or incorporate him more fully into the rest of the book.
What I am not sure about yet The structure of the ending. Bringing Alma and Leo's narrative voices together in alternating pages is a neat trick, but it involves a rather major shift in tone and pacing. Here, suddenly, we are moving forward in what is essentially real time and are given only short sections of each narrative voice at a time. The content of the ending. Without giving much away here, I will say that the concluding scene felt as if it wanted to be deep and meaningful, but was rather hollow instead.
There is one major revelation, but it is not one that takes on the relationship between Leo and Alma either Alma. The reader is left hanging regarding Leo and Alma as well as Leo and his book s. What else to say Despite my hesitations about the end of the novel, it gets four stars for its compelling characters and its ability to create a mood through the development of those characters.
I began this book at about 11 pm, thinking I would get a jump on it before finishing it tomorrow, but it is now 3: I did not want to stop reading it and couldn't put it down until I reached the ending.
Perhaps it is that ability to draw the reader in and make her read well past her bedtime in anticipation that makes the lightweight ending so disappointing. View all 10 comments. Jan 01, Maede rated it really liked it Shelves: View 2 comments. Jan 25, Erin rated it it was ok Shelves: This book was promising at the beginning, but proceeded to get sloppy and puzzling, and then ended in an unsatisfying and unclear way.
It's a convoluted plot involving a Polish Jew who falls completely for a childhood girlfriend, writes a book about her, and then is separated from both by the Holocaust.
Not knowing the book was eventually published by the friend to whom he gave it for safekeeping, he now lives his old age in New York, lonely and waiting to die.
His story is interwoven with that This book was promising at the beginning, but proceeded to get sloppy and puzzling, and then ended in an unsatisfying and unclear way. His story is interwoven with that of the friend who took the book and published it under his own name, and a young girl in New York who was named after the heroine of the book and goes searching for her namesake.
The chapters involving Leo, the author of the book, are well written and intriguing, very well I imagine reflecting the mindset and cranky humor of an old codger. The chapters about Alma, the namesake, are short, choppy, and disjointed, often going off on tangents that don't seem to have much to do with the plot.
Then towards the end of the book, we all of a sudden start getting chapters written as diary entries of Alma's little brother. The odd change in format is an interruption to the flow, as is the final part of the book in which Alma and Leo finally meet; the POV switches rapidly back and forth between them, which I found slightly irritating. The ending was a bit of a let down after all of the buildup--perhaps I am not smart enough to understand it.
View all 19 comments. Shelli Bentley. Great original story. Krauss excels in writing rich believable characters. The soft down of your white hair lightly playing about your scalp like a half-blown dandelion. Many times I have been tempted to blow on your head and make a wish. Only a last scrap of decorum keeps me from it. His obsession with dying, his pining over lost love. A good day for Leo involves some quality pigeon-watching time interspersed with fantasizing about his upcoming funeral.
Make a few friends? I adored him. As soon as the acne cleared my hairline began to recede, as if it wanted to disassociate itself from the embarrassment of my face. Point is, it improves on reflection. And while no one who didn't experience it 1st hand could ever begin to comprehend what a Holocaust survivor must feel, I caught a glimmer.
Enough to understand - Leo was so wounded that he was incapable of change.
Want to thank Arnie for his review - the little nudge I needed: Hope you will read it to. View all 43 comments. Jun 07, BlackOxford rated it really liked it Shelves: Being Moved If you like your schmaltz delivered hot, thick and with plenty of gravy, Krauss is your writer. I mean no disparagement by saying that nobody does Holocaust survivor-tragedy better than she. The old man in the empty Manhattan apartment whose pregnant Polish sweetheart had left him years ago for America, and whose closest contact with his son is at the son's wake is tragedy with punch.
As is the teenager who desperately wants to reconstruct memories of her dead father through a relatio Being Moved If you like your schmaltz delivered hot, thick and with plenty of gravy, Krauss is your writer.
As is the teenager who desperately wants to reconstruct memories of her dead father through a relationship with yet another survivor-figure who is obsessed with the work of an obscure South American poet he a betrayer-survivor. Identities blur and flow into one another until the reveal becomes complete. The way human beings deal with chance, particularly the randomness of death, and the role of the long-term tragedy of chance itself become pitiable.
With her remarkable skill, Krauss entraps I have no better word the reader into her emotional universe. Her oeuvre is emotion and as one of her characters says, "The oldest emotion in the world may be that of being moved; but to describe it - just to name it - must have been like trying to catch something invisible.
View all 18 comments. Jan 04, Anuradha rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: I dedicate this review to the wonderful woman who graced the pages of Goodreads under the pen name of Fatty Bolger. It was her evocative and emotional review that drove me to pick up this magnum opus. Quoting from the book, I think it is pertinent for me to say about Krauss, what she says about Isaac Mortiz, "To call him her a Jewish writer or, worse, an experimental writer, is to miss entirely the point of his her humanity, which resisted all categorization.
I studied Sociology for three years, and one of the techniques, I remember my professor telling me, to study Sociology is Verstehen. Google defines it as an "empathic understanding of human behaviour", but somehow, I prefer my professor's definition of it.
She called it "putting yourself into the shoes of the person you study. She said it was important, as a student of sociology to understand that the subject cannot be studied unless you feel for the societal subjects you are studying.
I do have a point; I'm getting to it. Krauss is a flawless storyteller, and this is evident especially when she switches between chapters, each chapter written from the perspective of a different person.
She perfectly manages to capture the love, the loss, the longing of Leo Gursky, an eighty-year old man, who has been alone, pining for the only woman, the only person whose opinion mattered, for a period of sixty years. A man waiting for his death, a man who knows that some day, very soon, his heart, his weakest part, will give out.
She also seamlessly, in the next chapter, switches her tone to fit the voice of Alma Singer, a rather smart fifteen year old with a slow brother and a depressed mother. Alma Singer, who despite having lost her father hasn't lost her youth, or her drive to live.
It's almost as if the division between the two chapters is a mirror; a mirror separating the youthful joy of Alma Singer from the aged indifference of Leo Gursky. About The History of Love. About her. The only person whose opinion he cared about. When they were ten he asked her to marry him. When they were eleven he kissed her for the first time.
When they were fifteen she showed him the scar on her left breast. Their love was a secret they told no one. He promised her he would never love another girl as long as he lived. What if I die? For her sixteenth birthday he gave her an English dictionary and together they learned the words.
And this? What kind of word is that? What about this? When they were seventeen they made love for the first time, on a bed of straw in a shed. Later—when things happened that they could never have imagined—she wrote him a letter that said: After all, it was his love for her that saved him. It is true that the love turned into loss. Because sometimes the things that are hardest to do, are the things that have to be done. Like walking away. But still, the pride that your legacy still lives on, in the guise of what you wanted to be, what you intended to be.
That pride may save you. I interned at The Hindu about two and a half years ago, sometime in Winter Three of my articles got published with the by-line. It wasn't an achievement for me. My mother has framed photos of the article in her Office. Where she works. Because small as this may have seemed to me, no one was prouder of me than my parents. Isaac Mortiz may have been a best-selling author; no one loved his stories more than his father did.
Unknown to his son, unseen to the world, Leo Gursky was a proud father. And when his son dies, unknown to his father, unexpectedly, Leo's world crashes. Because, really, does he have anything else to live for? The world no longer looked the same. You change and then you change again. You become a dog, a bird, a plant that leans always to the left. When I woke up in the morning it was because he existed, and when I ordered food it was because he existed, and when I wrote my book it was because he existed to read it.
In love maybe. Has the dubious distinction of dealing with her depressed, aloof mother, and her rather slow, yet unflinchingly fanatical brother. Love me less. A brother who jumped off the roof of his school, because he thought he could fly.
A girl, looking to find someone for her mother, so that she could explore the Arctic. A girl who believed that Alma was a real person, indeed. A girl who memorised the Universal Edibility Test. A girl who fell in love with her best friend, but was too awkward to tell him so. A girl, whose story almost mirrored Leo's in so many ways. She has second chances. Zvi Litvinoff, who did everything he did for love. A tale of love, loss, and longing.
How many times have we heard that before, you say? Only difference is, The History of Love deals with these in a ponderous, emotionally draining manner, that leaves you longing for more. The subtle elements of humour in it make it the brilliant book it is. View all 34 comments. Apr 10, Algernon Darth Anyan rated it it was amazing Shelves: Words are the way we fight against entropy, against forgetfullness, the way we demonstrate to the world and to ourselves that we are alive, that we have a past and a future.
History is the act of connecting the past with the future, and Nicole Krauss argues that the way we love is a better "For My Grandparents, who taught me the opposite of disappearing and For Jonathan, my life. History is the act of connecting the past with the future, and Nicole Krauss argues that the way we love is a better measure of our lives than wars or industrial revolutions or politics.
Three separate strands are woven together in the novel. At first, they seem unrelated, and much of the plot is driven by the effort of a young girl named Alma Singer to find the connections between her own family history, a book called "The History of Love" written decades ago in Chile by a Polish immigrant, and a mysterious man who pays a lot of money for a translation of that book, now quasy forgotten. Also forgotten, living alone in an apartment filled with junk, is an 80 year old man named Leopold Gursky, who is afraid nobody will notice or care when he passes away.
I could start now to explain and to analyze the structure of the book, or the motivations of the characters, or the style of presentation.
But I have a feeling that in doing so, I will do a disservice to the story, because this gem is one of those rare magic moments where you feel that instead of you reading a novel, the book is reading you, and putting down in words what you wished you had been able to do or write about your own life as Alma father's remarks in the dedication he writes on the first page of the book.
This novel might as well be about my own grandparents and father, who died while I was still a young punk, too obsessed with myself to ask for the stories of their youth, for their histories of love. Every year, the memories I have of my father become more faint, unclear and distant. Once they were vivid and true, then they became like photographs, and now they are like photographs of photographs.
I admire Alma Singer for her efforts to keep the memory of her father alive, re-reading his books on survival in the wilderness and on edible plants, inventing stories about him to tell to her small brother, pestering her grieving mother to rebuilt her life. Alma is also a teenager, so she has to cope with her own emerging feelings of love. Did I tell she also worships Antoine de Saint-Exupery? That's just one more reason to like her chapters, and the lively entries she makes in her personal diary.
Yet the character I identified with most is the old Leo Gursky, the invisible man, who feels the need to drop things in the supermarker or quarell with the chashiers, even goes to pose nude for a class of art students, just to feel that somebody is noticing him, that somebody might remember him.
Crossing the street, I was hit head-on by a brutal loneliness. If you don't know what Leo is talking about, I envy you, but there is more to him than meets the eye.
Behind the decrepit facade and the cranky behaviour beats a heart still believing that life is "a thing of beauty and a joy for ever". In the silence of his room, he still puts words on paper, pouring out his passion and his pain, even if nobody seems interested in reading his novel.
You see, he was not always 80 years old, and he can still remember the best years of his life: Once upon a time there was a boy.
He lived in a village that no longer exists, in a house that no longer exists, on the edge of a field that no longer exists, where everything was discovered and everything was possible.
A stick could be a sword.
A pebble could be a diamond. A tree a castle. Once upon a time there was a boy who lived in a house across a field from a girl who no longer exists. They made up a thousand games.
She was Queen and he was King. In the autumn light, her hair shone like a crown.
They collected the world in small handfuls. When the sky grew dark they parted with leaves in their hair. Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.
I feel like there's nothing more to add after the last passage, without spoiling the magic. Yet, I must comment on the people disappearing from Leo and from the other people's life, because the reason the village, the houses and the fields are gone, the reason Leo and Zvi and many others are living in exile has to do with the crimes of the Nazis in the second world war.
The plea against disappearance in the dedication is now extended to all the victims of the Holocaust, whose shadow is still looming over the younger generations. Nicole Krauss does a much more creditable effort in dealing with this highly charged event that the dissapointingly cute "Book Thief". She keeps the dignity of her people with understated intensity, and matter of fact enumeration of the many holes left in the personal and cultural space by the departed.
A Book Within a Book Who really wrote the book of love? Leo or Zvi or even Alma in her vivid imagination? Better yet, was it started centuries or millenia ago, and passed on from generation to generation until it landed in my hands? Is the novel published in Valparaiso still lingering on some dusty shelves in a dark second-hand bookshop that hardly anyone visits today, in the age of electronic downloads?
Is there a copy of it to be found in the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books in Barcelona? Speaking of ages, we only get to read fragments of this fabled history, more like short essays on the ways love as the highest art of communication between people, the way we are recognized and remembered. I have tried to bookmark some of these favorite passages regarding The Age of Glass, The Age of Silence, The Birth of Feeling, but I realized I should really quote whole pages, take them out of context, and that they are better left alone, to be enjoyed the way the author meant them to be, slipped between the memories of Leo and Alma.
Even so, here's a sample of what I'm talking about: The first language humans had was gestures. There was nothing primitive about this language that flowed from people's hands, nothing we say now that could not be said in the endless array of movements possible with the fine bones of the fingers and wrists. Clapping, pointing, giving the thumbs-up: Holding hands for example, is a way to remember how it feels to say nothing together.
And at night, when it's to dark to see, we find it necessary to gesture on each other's bodies to make ourselves understood.
To close my review of a novel I plan to give as a gift to my friends, one that I look forward with great pleasure as a re-read at some point in the future, I have chosen the words of one of the fictional historians. Did the book change my own life, as Zvi hoped for? Only time will tell. Staring out the window, Litvinoff imagined the two thousand copies of The History of Love as a flock of two thousand homing pigeons that could flap their wings and return to him to report on how many tears shed, how many laughs, how many passages read aloud, how many cruel closings of the cover after reading barely a page, how many never opened at all.
He couldn't have known it, but [ View all 33 comments. If the opportunity to read this book in one sitting would have been available to me, I probably would have taken it. Oh well. I suppose that is what retirement will be for. I really loved this book. The characters spoke to me and If the opportunity to read this book in one sitting would have been available to me, I probably would have taken it. The characters spoke to me and they became real, flesh and blood people. Sometimes non-linear storylines bother me.
I kept reading to find out what it all meant. I kept reading to be surprised--and I was, pleasantly so. There are three concurrent storylines: Alma Singer is a teen girl, living with her mother and younger brother. Her father had died of cancer when she was a child.
Her brother suspects he could be the messiah and her mother is still mourning the loss of her husband and has shown no interest in dating or ever marrying again. This concerns Alma. Litvinoff is dead before the beginning of the novel so the portions of his story are told posthumously.
It was very touching. Fantastic story. View all 8 comments. Feb 03, Cecily rated it it was amazing Shelves: My review of this wonderful book is HERE. What follows below is not a review. This page is a collection of lists about the story, characters, and themes, showing the many and complex connections between them, but without any emotional response or analysis.
It is almost entirely made up of spoilers, so don't read it if you have not read the book - and maybe not even then.
Please think before you click. The Last Words on Earth - Leo p The Party Wall. Catherine Leroux. The Muse. Jessie Burton. Rainbow Rowell. Raziel Reid. Little Fires Everywhere. Celeste Ng. Not That Kind of Girl. Lena Dunham. The Invention of Wings. Sue Monk Kidd. Modern Romance. Aziz Ansari. Things You Won't Say. Sarah Pekkanen. Michael Crummey. Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling.
Eight Hundred Grapes. Laura Dave. We're All in This Together. Amy Jones. Half Spent Was the Night. Ami McKay. Luckiest Girl Alive. Jessica Knoll. Jill Alexander Essbaum. The Forgetting Time. Sharon Guskin. Affinity Konar. Behold the Dreamers Oprah's Book Club. Imbolo Mbue. Tin Man. Sarah Winman. The Heart Goes Last. Margaret Atwood. The Scribe of Siena. Melodie Winawer. The Immortalists. Chloe Benjamin. Mona Awad. In the Unlikely Event.
Judy Blume. Among the Ten Thousand Things. Julia Pierpont. The Break. Katherena Vermette. Secrets of a Charmed Life. Susan Meissner. Everything I Never Told You. Inside the O'Briens. Lisa Genova.
Elizabeth Is Missing. Emma Healey. Year of Yes. Shonda Rhimes. The Nightingale. Kristin Hannah. The Enchanted. Rene Denfeld. The Interestings.
Meg Wolitzer. The Clay Girl. Heather Tucker. The Wonder. Emma Donoghue. When Breath Becomes Air. Paul Kalanithi. Under the Influence. Joyce Maynard. The German Girl. Armando Lucas Correa. Did You Ever Have a Family. Bill Clegg.
A Little Life. Hanya Yanagihara. Paulo Coelho. Man Walks Into a Room. Nicole Krauss. Great House: Forest Dark. Best European Fiction Aleksandar Hemon. How to write a great review. The review must be at least 50 characters long. The title should be at least 4 characters long.
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You can remove the unavailable item s now or we'll automatically remove it at Checkout. Remove FREE. Unavailable for download. Continue shopping Checkout Continue shopping. Chi ama i libri sceglie Kobo e inMondadori. The History of Love: