Friday, May 15, 2009

Book review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Let me start off with my favorite quote from the book:

'I reached inside the envelope. It was a postcard of a Rembrandt self-portrait. On the back it said: Dear Al, Wittgenstein once wrote that when the eye sees something beautiful, the hand wants to draw it. I wish I could draw you. Happy early birthday. Love, your Uncle Julian.'

Book description

Leo Gursky is just about surviving, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive. But life wasn't always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And though Leo doesn't know it, that book survived, inspiring fabulous circumstances, even love. Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that very book. And although she has her hands full—keeping track of her brother, Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah), and taking copious notes on How to Survive in the Wild—she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With consummate, spellbinding skill, Nicole Krauss gradually draws together their stories.
'... as a rule of thumb, whenever there appears a plural, correct for a singular. Should I ever let slip a royal WE, put me out of my misery with a swift blow to the head.' - Leo Gursky in The History of Love.
I could very well keep this post short and simple with J.M. Coetzee's praise for this book 'Charming, tender and wholly original' but I want to add something. This is truly a wonderful book and I loved reading it, although I thought it had a bit of a slow start.

Nicole Krauss has a wonderful way of portraying feelings in this book, love, loss, grieve and loneliness. The main character in this book, Leo, is an old lonely man. For me it is truly horrifying to imagine a future alone without anyone. I cannot help but think about how many elderly people living out there, lonely; in this world where many people even shy away from caring about their next door neighbor.

'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.' - The History of Love.

This book describes feelings many of the Jewish refugees experienced around the time of World War II. I believe it is very important that we never let ourselves forget what happened in Europe during that time period. The author herself had grandparents that fled to America before the war started (several of Krauss older relatives died in the Holocaust). In the dedication of the book she writes about her grandparents 'who taught me the opposite of disappearing'.

My rating of this book 4.5 out of 5.

Short about the author, Nicole Krauss:

Nicole Krauss was born in USA in 1974. Lives in New York with her son and husband, author Jonathan Safron Foer. Her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room, was published in 2001. She has written some poetry and was nominated for the Yale Younger Poet's Price.


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