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The History of Love Paperback – May 17, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 718 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Nicole Krauss's The History of Love is a hauntingly beautiful novel about two characters whose lives are woven together in such complex ways that even after the last page is turned, the reader is left to wonder what really happened. In the hands of a less gifted writer, unraveling this tangled web could easily give way to complete chaos. However, under Krauss's watchful eye, these twists and turns only strengthen the impact of this enchanting book.

The History of Love spans of period of over 60 years and takes readers from Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe to present day Brighton Beach. At the center of each main character's psyche is the issue of loneliness, and the need to fill a void left empty by lost love. Leo Gursky is a retired locksmith who immigrates to New York after escaping SS officers in his native Poland, only to spend the last stage of his life terrified that no one will notice when he dies. ("I try to make a point of being seen. Sometimes when I'm out, I'll buy a juice even though I'm not thirsty.") Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer vacillates between wanting to memorialize her dead father and finding a way to lift her mother's veil of depression. At the same time, she's trying to save her brother Bird, who is convinced he may be the Messiah, from becoming a 10-year-old social pariah. As the connection between Leo and Alma is slowly unmasked, the desperation, along with the potential for salvation, of this unique pair is also revealed.

The poetry of her prose, along with an uncanny ability to embody two completely original characters, is what makes Krauss an expert at her craft. But in the end, it's the absolute belief in the uninteruption of love that makes this novel a pleasure, and a wonder to behold. --Gisele Toueg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The last words of this haunting novel resonate like a pealing bell. "He fell in love. It was his life." This is the unofficial obituary of octogenarian Leo Gursky, a character whose mordant wit, gallows humor and searching heart create an unforgettable portrait. Born in Poland and a WWII refugee in New York, Leo has become invisible to the world. When he leaves his tiny apartment, he deliberately draws attention to himself to be sure he exists. What's really missing in his life is the woman he has always loved, the son who doesn't know that Leo is his father, and his lost novel, called The History of Love, which, unbeknownst to Leo, was published years ago in Chile under a different man's name. Another family in New York has also been truncated by loss. Teenager Alma Singer, who was named after the heroine of The History of Love, is trying to ease the loneliness of her widowed mother, Charlotte. When a stranger asks Charlotte to translate The History of Love from Spanish for an exorbitant sum, the mysteries deepen. Krauss (Man Walks into a Room) ties these and other plot strands together with surprising twists and turns, chronicling the survival of the human spirit against all odds. Writing with tenderness about eccentric characters, she uses earthy humor to mask pain and to question the universe. Her distinctive voice is both plangent and wry, and her imagination encompasses many worlds.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (May 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393328627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393328622
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (718 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Nicole Krauss's astonishing novel about a manuscript that survives the Holocaust, a flood, broken friendships, a plagiarist, misunderstanding, and obscurity has all the heart and intelligence of the best fiction being published today. Elderly Leo Gursky is afraid of dying unnoticed, and he plans his days so that people will see him and remember him. Among other schemes, he makes a scene in Starbucks and poses nude for a drawing class. Leo wasn't always this lonely. Decades before, in a small town that was then part of Poland, he fell in love with a girl named Alma. He wrote a book about her before the two fled at different times and circumstances to safety during World War II. Despite the disappointments in his life, Leo continues to write, convinced that he will die when this next book is finished. Meanwhile, a teenager also called Alma, named after a character in a book titled The History of Love by a Chilean named Litvinoff, finds herself in the heart of a mystery: her mother is hired by a mysterious man named Jacob Marcus to translate The History of Love from Spanish. Since Alma's father passed away years before, her mother has been overcome with sadness, and Alma sets out to find Jacob Marcus as a possible suitor. Oblivious to Alma's quest, her brother Bird has decided he is one of thirty-six holy men, a "lamed vovnik", and might even be the Messiah. And then there's Litvinoff himself, in the past, with his personal story and connection to the manuscript and to Alma and to his own beloved Rosa. The stunning coup of this novel is how Krauss brings these diverse elements into a single, concluding moment.

Krauss has complete command of a story that could get away from a lesser novelist.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is very similar in both content and tone to Jonathan Safran Foer's latest book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It's interesting to note that Foer and Krauss are husband and wife.

Summary, no spoilers:

This novel is told from the point of view of several narrators.

The first, and best narrator, (the parts that feature him are brilliant), is Leo Gursky. Leo lives by himself in New York. He was born in Poland, and fell in love with a girl named Alma. They vowed to spend their lives together.

Due to the war, Leo and Alma were separated, and Leo has spent his life alone, pining for Alma.

The other main narrator is a young girl also named Alma, who has lost her father to pancreatic cancer and lives with her young brother and mother. All have been terribly damaged by his death.

Although we occasionally get other narrators, the story is essentially told by these two wounded individuals. Alma tries to find the woman for whom she was named, and Leo tries to become a part of the living world, and become a part of his son Isaac's life. And all of this centers around a mysterious book entitled The History of Love.

This is a gorgeous book. Like Foer's novel, this book is funny, sad, and quirky. At times a bit too quirky.

I thought the chapters involving Leo were terrific. The book starts out with Leo's narration, and hence the book starts out on a powerful note.

Although I enjoyed the character of young Alma, the chapters involving her were often odd, and sometimes slowed the pace of the story.

Still, this book is worthy of 5 stars, and it would make a wonderful book club choice...there is a lot to discuss.

So who has the better book, Foer or Krauss? My vote goes to Krauss, who wrote a page turner that has a better flow, and is more accessible than the Foer's work.

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Format: Hardcover
The History of Love is a great novel. Plotted with exquisite precision, propelled by deeply sympathetic characters, and crammed full of mysteries and solutions, this book lights up neural networks you never knew you had. Besides recounting the stories of a 15 year old girl and a Holocaust survivor, Krauss's novel is also the story of a book (The History of Love). What it says about books is just as important as what it says about love, even if it isn't going to make the end-of-paper movement at cartel Microsoft very happy.

Nicole Krauss understands books to be what no other medium is: self-contained, tough, mobile over continents and generations and languages, full of the future as inscribed by a piece of someone's soul. The History of Love (the novel within the novel) has a provenance that would make a Rembrandt painting blush: written in Poland, manuscript given away then stolen, conceived in Yiddish, translated to Spanish, published in Argentina, found by a Jewish traveler, given to his wife, secretly translated into English, discovered by a 15 year old girl in New York, AND MORE. In Krauss's telling, none of this is random, and even though characters act unaware of each other, the larger plan somehow manifests G*d in the lives of the Living. Why don't I just write it: according to Krauss, when the soul of the writer is pure, a book becomes an immanent sacred object. And in that way, books are a lot like love, only rectangular and full of numbered pages.

If we esteemed writers by what their novels hold faith with, Nicole Krauss would sweep this year's fiction awards.
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