I 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
I 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?
2005, 385 pp
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!