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

by Nicole Krauss (Author)

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English (210)  Dutch (5)  French (3)  Norwegian (2)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  All languages (224)
Showing 1-5 of 210 (next | show all)
"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?"

What a reading experience! 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 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 personal journal entries. Central to the novel are a group of teenagers who each survive and/or escape the Nazi occupation of Poland only to find the overwhelming loneliness and grief that awaits them when they attempt to "start over."

I guess it depends on what you're going through at the moment, but this book just made my heart hurt so much. 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...it can be the thing that pushes us forward and makes us get out of bed every morning. That is pretty powerful, and Krauss did a magnificent job of relaying that message. ( )
  dreamydress48 | Dec 5, 2014 |
You know, I’m always disheartened when picking up a book to find a sticker staring back at me declaring that it’s been “Shortlisted by Richard & Judy’s book club.” What is that supposed to mean? That it didn’t even make the final? It did however live up to my expectations. Bland, unoriginal and desperate to please.

There was a story here but boy she didn’t half labour to get it out. And was it worth it? Not really. I did collect a few quotes here and there, but you can join the dots in your own mind way before the writing does it for you. The characters are okay. Well, no. Wait a minute. The main character is okay. He’s a kind of sane version of Ignatius J. Reilly I suppose – which of course takes all the fun out of him. But the young girl, was absolutely two dimensional and the parts that were written from her point of view were the worst in my opinion. She just seemed like a last minute plot invention to solve the problem of a vehicle to convey how the threads of the needlessly fragmented storyline came together.

For some reason I kept thinking of The Book Thief as I read this. I think it was the fact that both dealt with Jewish culture as well as suffering from writers trying too hard. As with Thief, this was a novel trying to impress you with ‘clever’ little literary devices which I suspect may mask the ability to actually write. Take for example, the opening line below. Are we supposed to be intrigued by the use of a dependent clause bereft of its main clause mother? And towards the end, we had whole pages with just a few lines on them. Why? Okay. Why not? You’re right. It certainly helps me get to the end quicker as my progress graph below from Goodreads shows.

No idea whatsoever what this is doing on the 1001 books list. No idea at all. ( )
1 vote arukiyomi | Jun 14, 2014 |
hard to get into ( )
  lindahallmann | May 31, 2014 |
Nicole Krauss has, I suspect, a great deal of literary ambition. She is the author of MAN WALKS INTO A ROOM, which was well received, and THE HISTORY OF LOVE was shortlistded for the Orange Prize. She's also married to Jonathan Safran Foer (this book has been compared all over the place to EXTREMELY LOUD AND UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE). There's nothing wrong with ambition -- we all have it, including me. All writers want to write important books that will become part of the canon. Meet one who tells you she doesn't and you have my permission to giggle.

Still, the problem with ambition can be that it is a harsh master, lashing one onwards toward the glittering twinkle of prize ceremonies while one ought to be paying attention to the words on the page, right there at the end of one's nose. In other words, the readability, the emotional engagement of one's work can suffer.

That is, I fear, what's happened here. Krauss has talent. Scads of it. She writes lovely sentences and has a big imagination. You can read the summary of the book in any review or on the back of the book, so I won't try and encapsulate it here. What I will say is that although I quite liked the characters -- Leo Gursky (who resembles a less Rothian Philip Roth), more than Alma Singer (a little too girlish Holden Caufield) -- and can easily acknowledge the audacity of the plot, I felt it was trying far too hard to be clever, to be NEW!, to be FRESH! The plots within plots, the books within books, the secrets and lies and near farcical near-misses, the stolen identifies, the myriad allusions and all the other contrivances seem designed more to convince the reader how brilliant the author is, rather than to create an emotional experience. Although I can be impressed, I remain, alas, unmoved.

Besides which, it was obvious to me from the first pages who wrote the manuscript in question, and I suspect I wasn't supposed to figure that out quite so early. The only mystery that remained was how the manuscript came to be under someone else's name and that, while interesting, was not as engaging as the novel might have been had Krauss pared down all the twisty bits. I can't help wondering how moving and tender a novel this might have been if she had carved away everything except Gursky. Might it have become the novel of love and loss and yearning and regret she seems to have been straining for, rather than the pyrotechnical display it is? Who knows.

Still, I have the urge to reassure Krauss (not that she needs my reassurance; this book is doing very well indeed), that she is smart, that she is clever, that she is a good writer. I want to tell her not to try so hard.

Having said that, if you are the sort of reader who loves puzzle-box structures and intellectual challenges in your reading, this might well be for you. It's certainly terribly smart. ( )
  Laurenbdavis | Apr 27, 2014 |
This is a book that makes you think about life and love and how everything eventually comes full-circle, whether it happens when you want it to or not. I'm still confused about who Jacob Marcus is though...anyone? ( )
  KatieCarella | Apr 12, 2014 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
For my grandparents, who taught me the opposite of disappearing and for Jonathan, my life
First words
When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, Leo Gursky is survived by an apartment full of shit.
Quotations
A thought crossed his face in a language I didn’t understand.
It’s also true that sometimes people felt things and because there was no word for them, they went unmentioned.  The oldest emotion in the world may be that of being moved, but to describe it and just to name it – must have been like trying to catch something invisible.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Presents a narrative about an aged author who flees Nazi-occupied Poland leaving his unpublished manuscript behind and a teenage girl in New York who was named after the heroine in Leo's book which was published under a different man's name.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393328627, Paperback)

Nicole Krauss's The History of Love is a hauntingly beautiful novel about two characters whose lives are woven together in such complex ways that even after the last page is turned, the reader is left to wonder what really happened. In the hands of a less gifted writer, unraveling this tangled web could easily give way to complete chaos. However, under Krauss's watchful eye, these twists and turns only strengthen the impact of this enchanting book.

The History of Love spans of period of over 60 years and takes readers from Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe to present day Brighton Beach. At the center of each main character's psyche is the issue of loneliness, and the need to fill a void left empty by lost love. Leo Gursky is a retired locksmith who immigrates to New York after escaping SS officers in his native Poland, only to spend the last stage of his life terrified that no one will notice when he dies. ("I try to make a point of being seen. Sometimes when I'm out, I'll buy a juice even though I'm not thirsty.") Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer vacillates between wanting to memorialize her dead father and finding a way to lift her mother's veil of depression. At the same time, she's trying to save her brother Bird, who is convinced he may be the Messiah, from becoming a 10-year-old social pariah. As the connection between Leo and Alma is slowly unmasked, the desperation, along with the potential for salvation, of this unique pair is also revealed.

The poetry of her prose, along with an uncanny ability to embody two completely original characters, is what makes Krauss an expert at her craft. But in the end, it's the absolute belief in the uninteruption of love that makes this novel a pleasure, and a wonder to behold. --Gisele Toueg

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:32 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Sixty years after a book's publication, its author remembers his lost love and missing son, while a teenage girl named for one of the book's characters seeks her namesake, as well as a cure for her widowed mother's loneliness.

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