The History of Love – Nicole Krauss

Posted 9 June, 2011 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 23 Comments

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Title: The History of Love
Author: Nicole Krauss
Published: 2005; Pages: 252
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

An aging recluse rethinking his life, a young girl easing her mother’s heartache, and a forgotten author whose book brings them all together. The History of Love is a poignant story of discovery, love, redemption, and the threads that bind us together. [ya, I don’t know why I bother telling you anything at all]

Why I Read It: The History of Love is one of those books that I saw a million trillion places on the blogosphere. Of course I never really knew what it was about and since I often found it in the clearance section of Half Price Books I didn’t think much about it (you know those books that frequent the clearance section…). But then my friend Laura read it and told me I needed to read it. And then I read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and you all told me I needed to read this one. So, I went to Half Price Books and paid non-clearance price (why does that always happen?).

Some [Uncoherent] Thoughts: Can I just bullet point this post? Oh wait, my blog…

  • Three separate narrations/storylines which made the beginning of the book a little confusing. It took me about a 100 pages before I was able to start piecing things together and since I was only reading 10 pages at a time I did have to go back and reread some bits. This was a big source of frustration but I’m blaming it on the 10 pages at a time, not the book (though others mentioned the same).
  • The History of Love is quite complicated with all of the intricate puzzle pieces but once things finally came together…*sigh*
  • Leo Gursky (see aging recluse above) is so sad and tragic it just hurts my heart
  • And Alma? I love her tenacity and cleverness and desire to cure her mother and help her brother Bird
  • Krauss’s writing is beautiful and each of the narrations are distinct in tone and voice. She perfectly portrays Gursky and Alma and the third “matter of fact” narration. I felt I really knew the characters and sympathized with the various emotions they were experiencing.
  • This book is very reminiscent of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. The authors are married and it makes me wonder how much they influenced each other in the writing of these books. I’ve heard that they can be somewhat companion books, which I’m not sure I agree with, but they did feel eerily similar.
  • Any book that can make me cry automatically goes into the “favorites” pile. I was nearing the end of the book and Elle was upset and wouldn’t go down for a nap. I decided to read the end of the book out loud to her. In many ways this was a wretched mistake because hearing the truths spoken aloud seriously broke my heart. I cried and cried. And while Elle finally slept I finished reading the remainder of the book (out loud) while still crying. And then I closed the book and just cried some more.
  • I was tempted to start the book over again from the beginning, but I’m leaving it for another day down the road. Instead I just hugged the book. A lot.

Bottom Line: Care says it best in her pre-review, so I urge you to go read her gushings. But bottom line is this is a beautiful and moving book that I think you should all go read right now. Well, if you haven’t read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, read that first, then read this, and then we’ll all meet for coffee and collectively gush over both books. Just like with EL&IC, this isn’t a book for everyone–it can be a bit confusing and even at times plodding–but in the end I found it to be well worth the small amount of frustration I experienced.

So tell me, where do I go from here?

23 Responses to “The History of Love – Nicole Krauss”

  1. Maybe I should read it again. I loved it when I read it, pre-blog.

    Also, I am seriously tempted to steal your picture and put it in my blog header. I love it that much. Seriously. Except I don’t know how to credit it to you in my header.

  2. And absolutely wonderful review! Your first paragraph is perfect. I love your reviews. :)

    I think I realized that the puzzle pieces would fall together eventually and just marveled at how well they did. I so loved this book.

    I, too, adore books that make me cry and keep reading through the tears and then hug the book at the end!

  3. I’m glad this book moved you :) It’s not easy to find books that do! I also was a bit confused in the first pages, and I remember having to re-read and flip back a few times as well. But it was definitely worth it all in the end!

    I really think I need to read EL&IC.

  4. I read this several years ago. I, too, thought it was confusing (& maybe a tad boring, if I’m being honest). I remember ending the book and being disappointed that there wasn’t more of a connection between the stories. Or maybe I’m not smart enough to get it? I do think that after reading EL&IC, since you think they are similar, I might get more out of it and feel like I owe it another chance, since it moved you to tears.

  5. I am hopin to start reading my copy soon, I picked it up for he exact same reasons you did.

    I’m glad I’m warned about the confusin beginning!

  6. See now I avoid books that make me cry completely. I hate to sob in public.
    I like the bullet point post and I am impressed that you have read a book when your little one is still so young. You must be super organised.

  7. Sounds intriguing, pass along. I will add it to the other 1000 books on my “read right now” list. I am reading the Lace Reader, and I felt the same way about getting to page 100 before I finally started to figure things out. But once you get there it usually turns out amazing; just like EL&IC.

    Sorry about screaming Elle… I hate when that happens.

  8. *Diane – I’m really glad you liked the audio version! I wonder if there were different narrators for each section?

    *Lisa – NO, what you need to do is read EL&IC. Stop making excuses. ;) Thanks about the picture though it’s too blurry.

    *Care – I loved how this book all came together as well, though I did have to do a bit of re-reading. And yes, love books that make me cry. Have any other suggestions? ;)

    *Laura – Thank you for suggesting it!! :) And I think if you liked this one you’ll like EL&IC. I hope so anyway–they feel very similar to me.

    *Elise – I can definitely see how some might think this one is boring and confusing! There were times when I had troubles paying attention and did a fair amount of re-reading. And I cry easily. ;) But maybe it was bad timing for you? Or not!

    *Jessica – I really hope you enjoy it! It is a very complex novel but I’m guessing my reading it in short spurts was to blame for my confusion.

    *Viv – LOL! I’ve even cried while reading at the gym! On the bicycle! :) And not reading much. Usually when Elle sleeps I work on sewing or blogging or cleaning rather than reading. :(

    *Brooke – Let me know when you want to borrow it–I know you have a huge list! :) I hope you end up liking The Lace Reader–I thought it was a really good book. And luckily Elle doesn’t cry as much during the day as she used to. Now if we could just get the evenings under control. Hopefully we’re halfway through the colick…

  9. I’ve been wondering about this book for awhile. Like you, I’ve heard mostly good reviews. I’ll have to try to get my hands on a copy (hopefully for the bargain price).

  10. I just moved this one when I was getting my book club selection for this month off the shelf and thought that I really need to read it soon. Apparently with a giant box of tissue nearby! Think it would work as a book club selection?

  11. I love bullets, they’re so handy. I don’t love Krauss, though. I didn’t care for her other two books, so now I’m too prejudiced to even try this one. I know, I can hear you and Care gasping in outrage.

  12. I see this, and her husband’s Incrediably Loud and Close Up (not sure if that’s exactly right) all over the blogosphere right now, and realize I really need to read both of them. No one dislikes either, apparently, and I have to know what all the fuss is about.

  13. *Cindi – I hope you can find a copy for cheap! Though in hindsight its one that I wouldn’t have minded paying a little bit more for. Enjoy!

    *Bermuda – I absolutely agree that when a book can bring about such strong emotions it really speaks to the craft of the writer.

    *Christina – Yes, Married!! So all the more reason to read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close if you haven’t yet!

    *Lisa – I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of this one! I definitely think it’s a great one for a book club–definitely lots to discuss and probably some varying opinions! It isn’t really a crying book but it is emotional if that makes sense.

    *Kim – ooooh, if you loved EL&IC you definitely need to read this one, Kim! I hope you love it, too.

    *Stacy – oh Leo. I just want to hug him!! Glad you loved it Stacy.

    *Ashley Amanda – Thank you for thinking of me! ;)

    *Softdrink – Thinking about doing bullets in all my posts. Less thinking = more writing. ;) And sorry I couldn’t convince you to read this one. Boooooo!

    *Bellezza – Funny that these books are making the rounds as they’re several years old! But they’re both beautiful books and very touching. My stepmom read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and found it depressing, so not all rave reviews. If you read, I hope you enjoy!!

  14. You have totally convinced me that I need to read this book. I honestly don’t know why I haven’t yet – but I love books that make me cry, and this sounds like it is beautiful. Thanks for the wonderful review (and yes, it is your blog, so bullet away whenever you so desire!)

  15. I just ordered this on Amazon.com. Can’t wait to read it. Have you read “The Love We Share Without Knowing”? I wonder if it is similar to that in how everyone in connected without knowing it. Guess I could just read this and find out! ;) Sorry Elle is colicky (sp?). My kids never really were that bad so I can’t relate, but I know how frustrating it can be when they just cry and cry. Hang in there!!!