Title: The History of LoveAuthor: Nicole Krauss
Published: 2005, W.W. Norton & Company
Genre: Literary Fiction
Accolades: 2006 short list for The Orange Prize
Leo Gursky an elderly man has spent his life hiding. First as a teenage boy hiding in the forest from the Nazis and later hiding from the memories that haunt him. As a young man Leo fell in love with a girl named Alma and wrote a manuscript called The History of Love which he gave to her. But the war tore Alma and Leo apart. The only thing that kept him going is the love he had for Alma who escaped to America during the war. While recovering from an illness in Poland after the war he gave his copy of The History of Love to a friend when he thought he was going to die. The friend moved to Chile and published the book under his own name while Leo went to New York to search for his lost love Alma. But Alma had married someone else when she found out that she was pregnant with Leo's child and thought Leo was dead. That is only the beginning of the story. What beautifully unfolds in this heart-wrenching novel is the impact that the published novel The History of Love will have on the past and present and finally on Leo himself.
The History of Love is told by two different narrators Leo and Alma a fourteen-year-old girl who was named after the real Alma in Leo's published book The History of Love 50 years later. Alma is on a quest to find out about the real Alma and to understand the love between her recently deceased father and mother. OK, are you confused yet? There is a lot to keep track of in The History of Love, but it is well worth the effort. My advice when reading this book is not to set it down for more than a day. I began reading the book before the New Year holiday and than company came and I didn't get to it for almost a week. I ended up starting the book over because I had forgotten key events and people and was lost.
The History of Love is a very good book. There are extraordinary passages that will catch in your throat - the truth tends to do that:
"We met each other when we were young, before we knew enough about disappointment, and once we did we found we reminded each other of it." (page 103, the History of Love)
Couldn't you just weep? The History of Love is not an easy read, but it is an enriching one. It will leave you wondering about how lives are interwoven and the characters will capture your heart.