53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just a love story
Intricately woven around the story of a book within the book, are the two worlds' of a fifteen-year-old girl called Alma Singer, and an old man called Leo Gursky, living their separate lives across New York City.
Without giving too much away (I hope!), following a theme of "lost loves" both characters strive to fill a void of emptiness and loneliness left by...
Published on 8 Feb 2007 by S. Barnes
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars When love flies off the pages of a book...
That's the case with the "History of Love". Its author thought that the book he wrote decades earlier was irretrievably lost. Instead, it had survived and traveled extensively, touching and changing the life of those who read it.
I especially liked the character of old Leo Gursky, drawn vividly to say the least, a touching, funny and simultaneously...
Published on 16 Jan 2008 by I LOVE BOOKS
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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just a love story,
This review is from: The History of Love (Paperback)Intricately woven around the story of a book within the book, are the two worlds' of a fifteen-year-old girl called Alma Singer, and an old man called Leo Gursky, living their separate lives across New York City.
Without giving too much away (I hope!), following a theme of "lost loves" both characters strive to fill a void of emptiness and loneliness left by the departure of a loved one. Leo Gursky, epitomises the endurance of a love so all-encompassing that 60 years on from his adolescent dream a long time ago in Poland at the start of the war, he yet spends his days contemplating his lost love, his childhood sweetheart, and conspicuously drawing attention to himself in public, by knocking over shop displays, to assure himself of his existence.
At the same time, we follow the efforts of Alma Singer, desperate to ease her mother's loneliness, after the death of her father several years previously. Alma sets out to find the author of an old book her mother is translating into English at the request of an unknown stranger...
Beautfully written, there is plenty of earthy humour and sadness to take you on an enchanting and emotional journey, from war-time Poland to present day New York.
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A uniquely magical novel about life,
This review is from: The History of Love (Paperback)Rarely have I read a book as enchanting and as superbly written as The History of Love. This is a spellbinding book about what it is to be human and what it can be to love. The stories told are as fascinating as the characters within. Be it an old man postponing death or a young girl postponing life the characters in this book weave stories that are achingly human and colossal at the same time. It’s a story within a story within a story that has inevitably become part of my own story and my own history of love. A book like no other.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars When love flies off the pages of a book...,
This review is from: The History of Love (Paperback)That's the case with the "History of Love". Its author thought that the book he wrote decades earlier was irretrievably lost. Instead, it had survived and traveled extensively, touching and changing the life of those who read it.
I especially liked the character of old Leo Gursky, drawn vividly to say the least, a touching, funny and simultaneously heartbreaking personality, who never forgot his first and only love. She had fled their native Poland during the Holocaust to go to New York and, by the time he is able to reach her, and learns that he has a son, it's too late.
On the other side of town (we're in contemporary New York), a young girl named Alma is currently reading the translation her mother is doing of the "History of Love" -a book she knew had influenced her parents' lives- hoping that by finding out the identity of the man who had requested the translation would help her mother to find love again after her husband's untimely death. She cannot yet know that the plan she has in mind will unravel an unexpected path.
Emotional twists & turns unfold for both of these main characters, old Leo and young Alma. Without knowing each other personally and unbeknownst to them, their lives and those of their loved ones are tied by the same rope.
A tender and often wrenching story about Love in all of its forms. The only reason I gave it 3 stars instead of 4 (in the absence of that "half mark" which I find could be useful), is that, at times, I had to concentrate not to mix up the various characters described, despite their obvious pertinence to the story, especially when reaching the middle of the book. A bit confusing.
On the other hand, I did appreciate the thin but strong line between past and present, with an original juxtaposition and an elegant prose. It all comes together in the end and the message is incredibly moving.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I often wonder who will be the last person to see me alive",
This review is from: The History of Love (Hardcover)Believe the hype. The History of Love is one of the most original and engaging pieces of literary fiction of the past year. The novel focuses on a book entitled The History of Love, written by Leo Gursky at age twenty in Slonim, Poland, to honor Alma Mereminski, with whom he has shared an extraordinary love. When the Nazis threaten Poland and Alma has to flee, Leo, unsure if he will escape, gives his book for safekeeping to his best friend, who is sailing to Lisbon. Leo eventually makes his way to New York, where as a locksmith, he is a "man who became invisible." His book about Alma has vanished.
Leo's story unfolds through his memories and moves back and forth in time, running in parallel with the story of Alma Singer, a 14-year-old girl named for a character in a Spanish-language book entitled, coincidentally, The History of Love, which her father bought in Valparaiso, Chile, and gave to her mother when they were newlyweds. Young Alma, lonely following her father's death, spends her days writing How to Survive in the Wild, in an attempt to control the uncertainties of her life, while her brother Bird, eleven and a half, loses himself in religion, believing he may be the Messiah. Their mother becomes a translator of books.
Gradually, the characters and their stories converge, and the reader learns how a book written in Polish came to be published in Spanish in Chile, then translated into English by Alma's mother for a client living in Venice.
The relationships of the characters as they age, their attitudes toward life, and their goals for the future create a fluid thematic structure in which characters spring to life and become the primary focus. Using humor, absurdity, and a variety of points of view, Krauss creates profound emotion and sympathy for these characters as they deal with absurd reality, always keying her unique imagery to their particular points of view. Ultimately the reader recognizes that Krauss's novel, like Leo's book, illustrates the many different kinds of love--that of parents for children, children for parents, friends for each other, and, of course, the love between lovers.
With an opening page guaranteed to pique the interest of even the most jaded reader, this confident novel, written with assurance and panache, is fresh and full of charm, a novel illustrating in unique ways some of the oldest themes in literature. Mary Whipple
43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "He was a great writer. He fell in love. It was his life.",
This review is from: The History of Love (Hardcover)Nicole Krauss' "History Of Love" is one of the most poignant and beautiful novels I have read in many moons - dare I say years? I do not exaggerate. Her prose is pure poetry, and her writing is a wonderful example of literature as an art form. Although this is not a Holocaust novel, per se, the Shoah casts a long shadow over the narrative. "And yet," I think the book is much more a remembrance of those who died, a memorial of sorts, than a book about death. Actually, the themes here are love, survival and loss. I shed many a tear while reading, sometimes because of the author's exquisite use of language, and others because of a character's terrible sadness, but I found myself bursting into laughter more often than not at the wonderful humor. Some of the dialogue is especially witty. Oddly, I was reminded of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's work. Perhaps the sense of wonder Ms. Krauss conveys, along with elements of fantasy which intertwine with reality, form a kind of Jewish magical realism.
"The first woman may have been Eve, but the first girl will always be Alma." So wrote young, aspiring author Leopold Gursky. He actually wrote three books before he was twenty-one, before WWII invaded his hometown of Slonim, which was located "sometimes in Poland, and others in Russia." Now, years later in Brooklyn, NY, Leo has no idea what happened to his manuscript, "The History Of Love," his most important work. He wrote the novel about the only thing he knew, his love for Alma. "Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering." He continued to write their story long after Alma's father sent her to America, where she would be safe from the Nazis. He even wrote after the Germans pushed East, toward his home.
At age eighty, Leo feels compelled to make himself seen at least once a day. He fears dying alone in his apartment, on a day when no one sees him at all. And he is capable of doing some pretty outrageous things to garner attention, including posing in the nude for a life drawing class. Ever since the war he has felt invisible. He survived by becoming invisible. And now, he needs to be sure he exists. When he came to America, his cousin, a locksmith took him in and taught him the trade. He did so because he knew Leo could not remain invisible forever. "Show me a Jew that survives and I'll show you a magician," he used to say. Leo finds some solace in his work. "In my loneliness it comforts me to think that the world's doors, however closed, are never truly locked to me." Unbeknownst, to Leopold Gursky, his book has survived also, and has inspired others in many ways, especially to love.
Alma Singer is a precocious teenager who lives in New York City. She is named for all the female characters in her father's favorite book, "A History of Love." Singer, an Israeli, bought the only copy in a store in Buenos Aires, while traveling in South America. Alma's mother, Charlotte, is an Englishwoman who met her husband while working on a kibbutz in Israel. He gave her the book, a gift, when he realized how much he cared for her. He died of pancreatic cancer when Alma was seven. Seven years later, his family is still adjusting to their loss. The sensitive girl desperately wants to ease her mother's loneliness. She also wants to learn how to survive in the wilderness, and help her brother, Bird, be a normal boy. Bird believes he may be the Messiah. Charlotte, a translator, receives a request from an anonymous stranger to translate an obscure book by a Polish exile, Zvi Litvinoff, who immigrated to Chile. She accepts the commission. The book, written in Spanish, is titled "The History of Love." Alma reads her mom's English translation and sets out to find her namesake. Her literary detective work is hilarious and her tenacity is admirable.
Ms. Krauss is a master at linking her various storylines seamlessly. Her characters are a delight - all vivid and memorable for their humanity, their eccentricity, and their inner strength. The author brings them to life on the page. They have all experienced sorrow and loss, yet there is not a self-pitying voice among them. And it is impossible not to love Leo Gursky. I hear my grandmother's voice, at times, when he speaks. She died years ago, and was probably a generation older than the author's grandparents, to whom the novel is dedicated. In a way a part of history is being preserved here. The rich Yiddish culture and humor that our grandparents brought to this country are almost gone now. In our rush to become assimilated much has been lost.
I plan to reread "The History of Love" in a few weeks, over a weekend when I won't be disturbed. I made the mistake of taking the book with me to work, and between the train and the office, I felt the numerous interruptions seriously detracted from the glorious flow of the language. This is a novel which is meant to be read more than once, anyway. ENJOY!
106 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love "History",
This review is from: The History of Love (Paperback)"He was a great writer. He fell in love. It was his life." While those are the final words of Nicole Krauss's illuminating second novel, "The History of Love," those three short sentences only highlight what I knew all along. This a unique book, haunting and quietly funny, and which leaves you thinking about memories, about death, and about love.
Leo Gursky has a weak heart, and may die at any moment. Virtually no one knows him, and his own son never even knew of him; he drops his change and buys things, just so someone might remember him when he dies. Sixty years ago, he fled Nazi-occupied Poland to pursue a childhood sweetheart to America, but she thought he had died, and married someone else.
Before that happened, Leo wrote a exquisite ode to her, called the "History of Love," a fictional look at love's origins, its milestones, and at a mysterious girl called Alma. A copy of that book found its way into teenage Alma's household, and she was named after that mysterious woman. Now, as her grief-stricken mother translates one of the few copies into English, Alma sets out on a journey of discovery -- about the mystery author, the person who wants the translation, and the mysterious original Alma.
Nicole Krauss writes much like her husband Jonathan Safran Foer -- she also takes a look at the past and present, at immigrants, and at the journies of our elders. And the insights she shows about the nature of love, and the intersections of life and literature, are startlingly deep. Many longtime authors can only dream of such delicate sensibilities.
The writing itself is surprisingly fluid, considering that Krauss changes narrators and timeframes several times, and sometimes refers to one character by different names. She also changes her style, depending on the narrator -- the old man has a more rambly style, while Alma neatly compiles her thoughts into numbered lists.
All the stories of death, loneliness and memories could be depressing. But Krauss injects them with gentle humor, such as Alma's brother Bird, who thinks he might be the Messiah (yeah, right, kid). There are also surprisingly poignant passages from the "History of Love" itself, which offer tiny insights into Leo's past love. Never sentimental, never maudlin. Just quietly, sadly romantic.
"The History of Love" is a truly exquisite piece of work, an insightful novel that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Definitely one of 2005's must-reads, and a beautiful read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gods and angels,
This review is from: The History of Love (Paperback)1. Many years ago, shortly before leaving school I asked an English teacher who her favourite writer was and without hesitation she replied, enraptured even by the name, 'Henry James!' I was a bit disappointed, I have to admit, dismayed even. But. I had to ask why. Her reply has stayed with me for over thirty years, 'Every line is so perfect, like it was written by God.'
I think I know what she meant, now, having read 'The History of Love'.
2. We all look for some particular thing in fiction and this is what I've been waiting such a long time for. For the last few years reading novels has been like living on supermarket sliced bread, so little substance - and with no butter, barely enough margarine. But. I read this, a couple of a pages at a time, savouring, quickly satisfied. Grateful. Reminded of the Paul Simon lyric, 'You read your Emily Dickinson, I my Robert Frost, and we note our place with bookmarkers, that measure what we've lost.'
3. The central premise might be a pet hate of mine, strictly for the birds (so to speak), a man haunted forever by his lost first love, whether it be Jane Austen's 'Persuasion' or Gabriel Garcia Marquez and 'Love In The Time Of Cholera', it's just sappy as a conceit, but easy to see a market for it - so be it. And yet.
4. One or two pages at a time was still a taste of heaven, leaving me regularly pausing, open mouthed! at the brilliance, the turn of a phrase, an emotional twist, the imaginative leap to the heart of the matter. Just for one of those many unexpected, haunting, poetic, revelatory lines was enough to appreciate divinity at work.
5. At first you may feel slightly disorientated as the chapters leap from Leo to Alma and back again, look for the symbols that are used for each voice - a heart for him, a compass for her. Angels both.
6. All this worship, maybe enough for my lifetime.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The History of Love by Nicole Krauss,
This review is from: The History of Love (Paperback)My wife bought me this book after watching a review on an early evening television programme. Had I had the choice I would not have given this book a second glance if it were on the shelf in a bookshop. I rarely ever read a work of fiction twice. I have read 'The History of Love' three times in succession, and yet, I feel compelled to read it again. This book is about life and impending death, the innoncence of youth and the loneliness of old age, joy and heartache, regret for what might have been and hope for what might be. Each time I read it I uncover another link in the chain which binds the characters together. I have no doubt that this will be a favourite of mine for many years to come.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what i expected,
By A Customer
This review is from: The History of Love (Paperback)like many other readers, after reading so many critically acclaimed reviews i was expecting to thoroughly enjoy "The History of Love", however i was not only dissapointed with the story but also confused. There are many characters of which have different effects on you e.g the old man leo gursky, but she introduces too many characters that just simply confuse the hell out of me! although the style of writing is lovely and very descriptive, you can't help but go back a couple of pages to try and remember who the hell she's talking about! I did enjoy it but i feel that i have to read it again to fully understand the characters, plot and message she's trying to portray. I would reccommend you read it and make your own mind up.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting but takes a bit of intelligence,
This review is from: The History of Love (Paperback)Firstly it must be said that those reviewers who did not understand the book, must be possessed of somewhat limited intelligence or no imagination. It is a reasonably complicated story but I do not think there is anything that hard to follow, you can simply read it and be carried along. I am not ashamed to admit that I shed a tear or two at the end, it is a rather beautiful story, which I will not spoil by saying anything else about.
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The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (Paperback - 6 Jan 2006)