Among my top 10 favorite books of ALL TIME. At first you have no idea how these narratives all relate, but by the end, you're turning the pages so quickly as connection by connection, it's all revealed. I would read it again and again and again ... no surprise it's won dozens and dozens of awards and critical acclaim. Beautiful and unique storytelling.
I was excited to read this book - it had some good reviews and the title was intriguing. However, I felt the book was disjointed; the author did not effectively move between time periods and I had to re-read some passages to figure out who was narrating the chapter I was reading.
The chapters that focused on Leo were much more interesting to me than the sections on Alma. Some of the sections written from Leo's perspective are very well written and descriptive. However, as I was reading the book I felt like the author was building up to something that never materialized.
I also felt the use of the one and two word sentences were annoying. It would have been fine to use them occasionally for effect but it was too frequent IMHO.
Im glad I reserved this book at the library and didnt spend my $ to purchase it.
At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to really like this book or really dislike it - and so put it down for almost 2 months. However, I picked it back up a few nights ago and absolutely got drawn in to the story.
Simply, it is a book about two people - elderly Leo Gurksy and teenager Alma Singer - who are lonely and looking for love and answers. Ultimately, those answers come in the form of the book "The History of Love." While the concept is fairly simple, the storytelling is not. It's multi-layered and complex, goes back and forth in time, and leaves the reader little clues along the way that you don't recognize until the end. In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was sad to finish it.
This book is truly a love story, but it is also a bit of a history lesson, less about love than about WWII to present day times. However, that in no way makes it historical fiction. This book is Literature with a capital "L." Elegant writing, tender and compassionate character development, unflinching truth and a lyrical voice all made me fall in love with this book and the people within.
My thought is that Nicole Krauss and her husband Jonathan Safran Foehr must live in a cooperative residence in Manhattan filled with grandparent-aged Jewish people who one by one tell them their true stories. Otherwise, these two authors are truly the most imaginative creators of fiction on the planet. Truth is often stranger than fiction, so that's my thought and I'm sticking with it.
This was an interesting story about how love and an obscure book affected the lives of a very diverse group of people. It was a little confusing to follow in the beginning, got somewhat better in the middle but brought everything together for the reader in the end.
This novel is well-written, moving, imaginative, surprising, and delightful. But it's one of those multi-plotline books, so you'll want to read it once to fall in love with the story, and twice to put all the moving pieces together.
You have to stick with this book for awhile before the puzzle starts to come together, but wow, is it worth it! I was crying in some chapters and laughing in others. Overall a great spin on the classic telling of a love story.
a clever fourteen-year-old girl, her widowed mother, an old Jewish man dreaming of his lost love, a book written in Spanish which the mother is translating...how are each of these characters pulled together in a long ago love story.
I loved the characterization in this book. You can practically hear Leo talking in his New York Jewish accent. The book is full of intrigue, it takes a long time to figure out what's going on, but it's worth the suspense.
I enjoyed this book--it reminded me a bit of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying...multiple narrators of different ages and personality. You must figure out who is speaking, and about what. However, it wasn't so many different narrators that it is totally confusing or hard to understand. The "mystery" of the book was very creative, and kept you guessing til the end. Great book of endearing love.
I enjoyed this book. The body of the book was better/more engaging than the ending, but I didn't really mind. It did remind me a bit of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (written by the author's husband, Jonathan Safran Foer) in that both deal with multiple generations of people in New York dealing with loss and personal history. If you liked EL&IC, you might like History of Love as well.
I love the structure of this novel. The author takes the reader through two different story lines and weaves them together. At the end of each chapter you are wanting a little more and then the storyline switches which makes the book difficult to put down. Each side of the love story is very different, but in the end the characters come together and the plots come together in such a warm and comforting way. She was very visually creative when she put the words on the page. The last 25 pages read like a play and really help create the mood for the end of the novel. Overall it was a great novel. A little mournful, but hopeful. I recommend this book!
It was a hard decision to list this book, I loved it so! It's story is told in a different way then I have ever read and ends so beautifully. I can't say it's always a happy ending, but it's an ending that brings full circle the love of a man's lifetime. Fantastic!!
This novel is both heart-warming and heart-rending. It is both comforting and frightening. It is both crystal clear and confusing. It is brilliantly written, full of humor and pathos. It is by far the best book I've read this year. I can't wait to read another book by this author.
Mom is lonely. Old man is lonely. Both lost love of life. Old man wrote book. Mom translated it without knowing it was old man's book. 14 year old daughter tries to make it all right. This book reminded me of "Everything is Illuminated" which I will never, ever swap.
3/27/09- This is a beautiful book. I actually did not read the whole thing and this is why. I was about halfway though and realized that I would be sobbing soon. So I read the last few pages and I was sobbing. I am way too sentimental for this book. First of all, I have hard time reading about and picturing elderly people alone. I also want everyone to find their love and even though Leo's book helped so many people find love when he did not even know it existed, he still was alone. I can't handle that. I was crying so hard after just reading halfway and the last few pages that I had red eyes and a horrible headache. This was a beautiful story and I would recommend it to anyone who can remove themselves from the story more than I can.
3/28/09- So I just picked up the book again from where I left off last night. I could not stop thinking about it. I finished the story and it is absolutely beautiful. I loved every page of it and I cried again like a baby. I am so touched by this story of love from all of the characters and how they are woven together.
I loved the characters' voices in this novel and the confusion brought about in the third person point of view chapters is resolved (mostly) in the end, so I felt like any frustration was well worth it. If you don't enjoy ambiguity this is not the book for you. Sad, but true and beautiful.
This is the story of 3 different lives that come together in the end, all surrounding the book The History of Love. I found it a bit confusing at first who was narrating and sometimes drawn out, but ended up enjoying it overall. I would give it 3.5/5
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)
This is an amazing story. It has multiple characters and sometimes it was hard to place who was talking and in what decade. The author takes the "Love Story" and intertwines it in MANY peoples lives. The characters are very slowly developed. Hang in there until the end.
I found this book to be somewhat confusing. It was difficult to find how the characters related to each other. Most of my book club meeting was spent clarifying things to each other. There is a lot in the book I just came away feeling as if I had missed most of it.
Absolutely wonderful book. Very indepth read. About a young girl who is trying to find cure for her mothers lonliness thru a book her mother is translating. She trys to find the author. The authir is a man who is also trying to survive a bit longer and the love of his life is the one who inspired him to write the book. He is also just the man young Alma is looking for. You will love the charecters and the pace of the novel. Heartbreaking but also funny. I liked this book.
I listened to this book on CD and I wish I would have listened to the other reviewers. I tuned out a lot because it was confusing - there are three narrators and I'm almost to the end and still don't get how they relate to each other. The book just skips around too much to keep my interest.
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.
The History of Love, a novel within an novel, champions the idea of enduring love and connection. Three storylines—a retired locksmith in New York, a teenager named after the protagonist of the title novel, and a Polish-Chilean writer— are slowly woven together, entreating the reader to discover the connection between them. Nicole Krauss does an admirable job keeping those voices distinct and playing with inventive forms (for example, the teenager's chapters are formatted with numbered headlines). However, I didn't find one of the major characters sympathetic and didn't care for the short sentence fragments that dot his chapters. Although the connection is realized in the end, it seemed anticlimactic as the other interesting characters that Krauss has created are swept aside for the moment of the All-Important-Connection. The story collapsed into being about the life of that one character. Overall, it was an interesting read.
This book was okay. I was disappointed because I expected so much more from it. It was enjoyable enough to read but I felt really let down in the end, mostly because nothing ever played out with most of the characters and you don't even know what might have happened to them.
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!
Other reviewers say that people loved this book. I read it based on its strong positive reviews. It didn't work for me. I read it clear to the end, hoping to understand it or to like it better. I read a lot, and this book was a total waste of time...I hated it! The idea was good, but it was too disjointed to follow easily, too broken up to be a smooth story. Very sorry I spent the time on it. D.
The intricate plot of this book hinges on flukey turns of chance, and it lost me. Sadly, I didn't care enough to go back and figure it out, so in the end I had lots of questions about the plot (like who is the guy in the bookstore who picks up a copy of the book, which appears to have been published in English?) which might not have been problematic for a better reader.
There are so many characters in this book we do not ever care about. Zvi is not very interesting. We do not learn much about the original Alma (probably because she is the "magic maiden that everyone falls in love with" trope and not an actual character). I'm also not sure why we meet young Alma's uncle, or Zvi's wife, or any of Isaac's family. The most compelling character after Leo is young Alma's brother, but his part in the book is dismayingly small.
If I had read the first chapter about Leo Gursky as a short story in a collection, I would have loved it. He is a compelling character, and it's interesting to follow him around. In fact, that might have made a better novel, but I sensed that Krauss didn't have the courage to just stick with plain, old, interesting Leo. The operatic framework of the novel, the mystery of this fantastical book, had the disadvantageous effect of occluding her strongest character. [Although, the constant repetition of "And yet." and "But." drove me crazy. His voice was strong enough without these ticks! We understand his longing and incompleteness, we don't need it punctuated every few sentences! But. Some people loved it. And yet.]
One of my pet peeves is when a writer makes writing or a book the centre of his/her story. It's like the author wants to convince us that writing is wondrous, powerful, transformative, etc. First of all, it would be better to write a novel that good than to talk about a fictitious one. Secondly, to write about writing or to write about a work of writing is too self-referential for me. If they can't pull it off flawlessly, authors need to find a better way to express their characters' inner lives than by making them writers. Also, there were so many literary tricks. I ended up thinking that Krauss had a solid work of fiction, but she dressed it up so much it ended up coming off as kind of cheap. Maybe it was just too much for my tastes. Most people loved it.
I absolutely LOVE this book! It's complex, it's well written, it's compelling, it's a keeper! The stories intertwine enough to follow the characters, but could be read separately. The little tics "And yet." and "But." were so real, I could hear them being said, with a wistful sigh. I will read it again, just for the sheer joy of reading such a great novel.
Sadly, I did not feel as most readers here do about this book. It was too disjointed for me and I didn't like the writting style or format much either. I skipped the middle 80 pages or so just to get to the end and I don't even think I grasped how it all "tied in" because the book lost my interest beyond the point of return. The good news is...I'll be passing it along to someone else who I hope enjoys it as others did. Just not my cup of tea.