The History of Love

The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss, masterfully weaves together disparate lives in the shadow of the Holocaust. Leo Gursky and Alma were in their late teens in 1941, when Hitler invaded Poland. Alma escaped to New York. But Leo remained behind, hiding in the woods and perfecting the art of becoming invisible. He was 21 years old, and had already written three books in honor of his beloved. One of these, "The History of Love," becomes a focal point in the Krauss novel and affects the lives of those who read it.

"But it is not the only piece of writing here to do so," writes Megan Harlan of the San Francisco Chronicle. "For Krauss' novel abounds with myriad literary documents--journal entries, letters, lists, translations, excerpts from autobiography--penned by her characters, and done so in cleverly distinctive styles that spark each personality to life. Their role in Krauss' tricky, intriguing plot suggests that all writing, no matter how private or obscure, is potentially filled with transformative power and sometimes in ways neither author nor reader could hope to imagine." (San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, May 1, 2005)

The characters in The History of Love, particularly Leo Gursky and fourteen year old Alma Singer (named for the character in Leo Gursky's novel) seem so alive they could step off the page. Krauss deals with themes of loneliness and alienation masterfully, and we both laugh and cry at Gursky's antics to avoid being unnoticed. Similarly, the quirkiness of Alma and her brother, Bird, play powerfully into these themes. The reader smiles at Bird's belief that he is among the Lamed Vahviks--one of the 36 sainted people who, according to Hasidic lore, will save the world. We are unsure of whether Bird is psychotic, or merely "unusual." Like Leo Gursky, he is both comic and sad. The reader wonders whether his mother's despondency and his father's death entice this sensitive boy into the realm of his imagination. As Bird helps his sister unravel the clues behind a letter, we are drawn into the mystery. The book becomes a page-turner whose loose ends come together on Bird's final journal entry.

If you enjoy reading books with endearing characters, exquisite writing, and an engaging plot, you will relish The History of Love. This book places Nicole Krauss among the best authors of our time.

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04/25/11
 
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