From the back cover:
Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer is trying to find a cure for her mother's lonelinesss. Believing that she might discover it in an old book her mother is lovingly translating, she sets out in search of its author. Across New York an old man named Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer. He spends his days dreaming of the lost love who, sixty years ago in Poland, inspired him to write a book. And although he doesn't know it yet, that book also survived: crossing oceans and generations, and changing lives...
In The History of Love, Nicole Krauss has written a book about losing things and finding things, about loss and grieving, and about love - and the lengths you'll go to to hold onto it. A spectacular book written with that bit of postmodern 'stuff' and magical realism both she and her husband (Jonathan Safran Foer) are known for, the book stretches out over time from the 2nd World War to present day, following the points of view of four characters who criss-cross the world from New York to Poland to South America. Krauss has created some really compelling characters and an overall mood in the novel that makes it stand out. It's beautifully worded and written; and so it's easy to fall into.
"Maybe the first time you saw her you were ten. She was standing in the sun scratching her legs. Or tracing letters in the dirt with a stick. Her hair was being pulled. Or she was pulling someone's hair. And a part of you was drawn to her, and a part of you resisted -wanting to ride off on your bicycle, kick a stone, reamin uncomplicated. In the same breath you felt the strength of a man, and a self-pity that made you feel small and hurt. Part of you thought: Please don't look at me. If you don't, I can still turn away. And part of you thought: Look at me." (p.57)
Why do people always get named after dead people? If they have to be named after anything at all, why can't it be things, which have more permanence, like the sky or the sea, or even ideas, which never really die, not even bad ones? (p. 176)
Unfortunately, I lot of the Jewish references to authors, artists, poets etc went over my head; I think I would have a greater appreciation if I did recognize some of them. So I could only read this as a love story. I think...umm, maybe this book for me crossed the line into sappiness too many times. But I did like the characters and their quirkiness mingled with their sadness/intelligence. I especially liked the young Alma and her detective work. But bottom line is, this is a very sentimental book. If you can read such lines as "This is the book I'd give you if I could write about our love" (not quoting verbatim but that's the essence) without cringing then you will probably really fall in love (sorry!) with this book.
This is my book of the month for August (see Hidden Gems:best book of the month discussion)
It held me until the very end, very touching and engaging! All about identity,visibility and entangled lives,I recommend it highly!