The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The History of LoveI loved this book. I really really loved it. Hopelessly fell in love with it. There, I need to get that off my chest.

There’s something about the writing that just hit me at all the right places. My funny bones, my melancholy bones, and all the bones I have that possibly evoke feelings. I went into the book not expecting it to be funny. And yet. It’s sooo so funny! I can’t believe I would say that one of the funniest moment in the book was two old men trying to catch a train. I was giggling like crazy. I so loved the main character, an old Jewish man called Leo Gursky, who is the ultimate comic of a man.

But there were sad moments in between the chuckles. Loss, regrets, loneliness, wonders of what could have been. I was laughing one minute and crying the next one. Laugh, cry, laugh, cry, sometimes I did both at the same time because the moments switched so quickly. Isn’t that what life is all about? An insane mix of tragedy and comedy?

Then there’s Alma, a 14 year-old girl who is named after every girl in a book her father gave her called The History of Love. Yes, there’s the actual book called The History of Love in the book, which is the string that will tie all the interweaving stories together. This book within the book, I so adored with the same love I have for our The History of Love.

“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.” ~p16

I mean how can you not love it from the snippet above?

Then let me go back to it being funny. I have this preconception that women writers can’t be fun. They could be serious, reserved, intelligent, subtle, daring, romantic, air-headed, anything but fun. But Nicole Krauss is soo fun here, without ever being crude. Leo on describing his best friend Bruno:

“The soft down of your white hair lightly playing about your scalp like a half-blown dandelion. Many times, Bruno, I have been tempted to blow on your head and make a wish.” ~ p8

Nicole KraussI realized that I haven’t given much of the synopsis, but really it’s one of those books that is very hard to summarize and much better to enter knowing very little. It was a delight from beginning to the end. Having read a couple of thoughts, I found some people had problem with the ending, but for me it’s just perfect, perfect, perfect. I cannot imagine it to turn any other way. I was absolutely satisfied at the last page, re-read the last few pages multiple times, and would’ve cried buckets if I wasn’t on the train full of people.

I wondered if Krauss purposely chose an old man and a little girl as the main characters of the book. Both are not in the prime of their age and the simplicity of the language just fits so well. Even the simplicity of their thoughts and life. Untainted by the craziness reserved for young working people who think about everything else in the world but.

“Once Uncle Julian told me how the sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti said that sometimes just to paint a head you have to give up the whole figure. To paint a leaf, you have to sacrifice the whole landscape. It might seem like you’re limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realize that having a quarter-of-an inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky.

My mother did not choose a leaf or a head. She chose my father, and to hold on to a certain feeling, she sacrificed the world.” ~ Alma p69

I would recommend it to anyone who has ever fallen in love, anyone who’s ever looking for something to ease the pain of the world, anyone who has lost and wonders what could’ve been. Don’t we all?

5 stars
2005, 385 pp

First line
When they write my obituary.

Shortlisted for 2006 Orange Prize

Also reviewed by
kiss a cloud
| things mean a lot | Vulpes Libris | Dreadlock Girl | One Literature Nut
Special thanks to Claire (of kiss a cloud) who encouraged me to bump this book up my pile when she knew I had it! What a nice surprise!

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40 thoughts on “The History of Love by Nicole Krauss”

  1. At one point I really wanted to read this (I even bought a copy) but for some reason the longer it sat on my shelf the less I felt like reading it. It is wonderful to see how much you enjoyed it – I think I’ll have to dust off my copy soon :-)

    1. Jackie, I totally understand about the longer books sit on the shelf the less we feel like reading them sometimes. And even worse, my taste changes and for some books I don’t think I will ever read them now! But I insist you dust off your copy of The History of Love! :)

  2. I love that first quote you posted – when I read this book a few years ago, I wrote that one down, too! I absolutely loved this book and remember it making me positively ache it was so heartwrenchingly gorgeous. I’ve been thinking about re-reading it, but I also have Krauss’s first novel, Man Walks Into A Room, so I’m not sure which I’ll go for!
    .-= [Steph´s last blog: “Legend of a Suicide” by David Vann] =-.

    1. Steph, I can see myself re-reading The History of Love in the future. There are so many parts and passages that I loved! She has her third book coming out, so I can choose to read her third or first book after this. We’ll see :)

  3. Your review does such a great job of summing up my feelings on the book. It’s hard to summarize it, but it’s just beautiful and I couldn’t help but fall head over heels for it. Then my book club read it and the general consensus was, “I don’t get it.” I know everyone has different tastes in books, but I have such a visceral reaction to this one that I was really bummed that they didn’t like it. It made me love it even more though, because I felt like I had to defend and protect it from the people who didn’t “get it.”
    .-= [Melissa´s last blog: Book List: 3 Books You Thought You’d Hate But Ended Up Loving] =-.

    1. Melissa, I heard similar things from Claire, that some people don’t get it. How is that possible? I just can’t get my head around it. I’m glad to know that you’re so passionate about the book too! :)

  4. I would love to read a book that make me love and cry. Thanks for introducing me to this book. it just had to be in my pile now. :)

    1. Aimee, I beg to differ on this one. I loved the book since pretty much the first few pages, all the way until the end. I got kinda worried that the ending wouldn’t live up to the rest of the book, but I’m glad that it so did! Interestingly, some people are the other way around, they liked the book but didn’t really get the ending.

    1. Novel Insights, the dandelion quote does represent the flavour of the book and I’m happy it intrigues you. Hope you are convinced and get a chance to read it soon! :)

  5. Great. Now I want to reread this, haha. This is such a personal book to me–shared love for this began a best friendship, so, yes, kindred souls and all that, I suppose. :]

    I’m reading Foer’s Extremely Loud next week, and so, FINE, I’ll reread this, haha. And I’m so excited for her new book, so very excited. :]
    .-= [Sasha´s last blog: marginalia || Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte – pt. 03] =-.

    1. Sasha, argh you and Claire made me want to read Foer’s book as well! I’ll see if I can fit it this year :]

    1. Suko that’s great! I really really hope you’d like it! It seems to be somewhat a bit of hit or miss, though I would never understand why it could be a miss!

    1. Ooh that’s too bad Kailana. I wish you could be more specific about why you didn’t like it. I’d be interested to know.

  6. Like you, I loved this book. I read it before I started blogging, but it was one of the top books I’ve read this year. It was also one of the first times that I’ve loved an “elderly” character in literature.

    1. Iris, it’s probably one of the first times I’ve loved an elderly character in literature too. He’s just sooo endearing and funny. I wish there were more characters like that in fiction. Most elderly characters in novels seem to be quite boring.

      1. Isn’t Leo so adorable? If you want to read more about loveable elderly characters, try “Amigoland” by Oscar Casares. So endearing.

        1. claire, I’d never heard of Oscar Casares or Amigoland. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read Hispanic-or-Spanish-sounding authors enough (or at all)! I promise I will rectify that soon.

  7. Well, everything I heard about this book so far tells me that I’m going to LOVE it… And oh, besides being funny, Krauss looks pretty too in that picture. That’s also not so common among writers, don’t you think? ;)
    .-= [Mark David´s last blog: Taking a Break] =-.

    1. Ahh pretty writers. I don’t it’s that uncommon actually. I read less women writers than men, but for men definitely there are quite a few good looking ones :D

        1. I read someone’s post on beautiful authors and she also mentioned Jhumpa Lahiri. Another one mentioned was Zadie Smith. But I don’t actually try to look for the pretty ones so I can’t suggest more lol.

          1. claire, I checked Sarah Hall’s picture on your blog. I saw it before but I forgot. She’s pretty yea, but I think a lot of women authors are! I think Chimamanda Adichie is beautiful too :D

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