Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The History of Love; A Novel by Nicole Krauss


My stepdaughter, Kaylee, read this book earlier in the year and passed it off to me to read.  I picked it up right before Christmas break because she was coming and I didn't want to NOT have read it before her return.  I had no expectations as I hadn't heard of Krauss or the title on any blogs before. I have had several comments from other bloggers that this is a book they read pre-blogging.  I'm glad I went into it fresh and was rewarded with amazing storytelling.  I love fiction that is able to take two seemingly different tales and weave them together like a fine Persian rug.

The History of Love begins with Leo Gursky and his lamentable life.  He's a mixed character with such depth; he's unhappy but happy to be alive every day.  He does things like drop change in line at the grocery store so the people around him are forced to really see him.  He volunteers to model for a nude art class.  He does not want days to go past where he is invisible.  He is a character I fell in love with by his sheer will to BE.

The other half of the story is told by fourteen-year-old Alma Singer who is attempting to solve the mystery of her family.  Her father died when she was seven, her mother has been sad ever since and her brother thinks he's been touched by God.  Alma's name comes from a book, The History of Love, which her father gave her mother years before and Alma endeavors to find out more about the book and the author, which might help her understand her own life or at least how to make her mother happy again.  

I thoroughly enjoyed both parts of this multifaceted story and at times couldn't put the book down.  I plan to read more Nicole Krauss books as well as her writer husband, Jonathon Safran Foer.  Kaylee has a class at Oberlin that Foer teaches which is why she'd picked the book up in the first place.  

Have you read any books by this power writing couple?  If not, I highly recommend this one...
After finishing it I hugged it and then reopened it to reread the opening lines again.  I'm a little sad that stepdaughter is taking it away with her tomorrow.  

Here are the opening lines:
"When they write my obituary.  Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, Leo Gursky is survived by an apartment full of shit.  I'm surprised I haven't been buried alive.  The place isn't big.  I have to struggle to keep a path clear between bed and toilet, toilet and kitchen table, kitchen table and front door.  If I want to get from the toilet to the front door, impossible, I have to go by way of the kitchen table.  I like to imagine the bed as home plate, the toilet as first, the kitchen table as second, the front door as third; should the doorbell ring while I am lying in bed I have to round the toilet and the kitchen table in order to arrive at the door." (1)

I love her creative use of sentence structure and her imagery.  I can so easily visualize Leo's cramped NY apartment.  Thank you Ms. Krauss for creating and sharing Alma's and Leo's stories.


Lisa said...

love love loved this one! Barely remember it, but remember how I FELT when it ended.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

She is also the author of Great House which I have on my TBR shelf...it is also supposed to be really good. We have 2 of his books...Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (the movie will be released at the end of this month) and Eating Animals. I knew of both of these fabulous authors but somehow missed that they were married...very interesting! :)

JoAnn said...

I listened to this and it's one of my all-time favorite audiobooks. It's read with dual narrators and I especially loved Leo. Listen to a sample at audible.com. "And yet..."