43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
"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!
Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Apr 2010 11:20:00 BDT
Ray Ray says:
This review contains several spoilers in my view - at least being too explicit and detailed about the plot of this wonderful novel. A shame because obviously enthusiastic but should have kept a little back for other readers to discover for themselves.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›