History of Love: A Novel Paperback – Apr 25 2006
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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 the Hardcover edition.
If one were to judge from Krauss' characters, the history of love is a story of loss and survival. Budding writer Leo Gursky flees the Nazis unharmed but arrives in New York too late to marry his sweetheart. Brokenhearted, he becomes a locksmith (the source of lovely metaphors) and puts down his pen for 57 years. Just as he starts to write again, teenage Alma loses her father. She copes with her grief by reading up on how to live in the wild but worries about her bookish, increasingly isolated mother and Messiah-obsessed younger brother. Krauss, as so many have before her, including Steve Stern in The Angel of Forgetfulness [BKL F 1 05], constructs an intriguing books-within-a-book narrative. Leo turns out to be secretly connected to a famous writer. Another Holocaust survivor woos his beloved with an unusual manuscript, and Alma turns sleuth in her quest for the real-life inspiration for her namesake, a character in a novel titled The History of Love. Venturing into Paul Auster territory in her graceful inquiry into the interplay between life and literature, Krauss is winsome, funny, and affecting. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Leo Gursky has a weak heart, and may die at any moment. Virtually no one knows him, and his own son never even knew of him; he drops his change and buys things, just so someone might remember him when he dies. Sixty years ago, he fled Nazi-occupied Poland to pursue a childhood sweetheart to America, but she thought he had died, and married someone else.
Before that happened, Leo wrote a exquisite ode to her, called the "History of Love," a fictional look at love's origins, its milestones, and at a mysterious girl called Alma. A copy of that book found its way into teenage Alma's household, and she was named after that mysterious woman. Now, as her grief-stricken mother translates one of the few copies into English, Alma sets out on a journey of discovery -- about the mystery author, the person who wants the translation, and the mysterious original Alma.
Nicole Krauss writes much like her husband Jonathan Safran Foer -- she also takes a look at the past and present, at immigrants, and at the journies of our elders. And the insights she shows about the nature of love, and the intersections of life and literature, are startlingly deep. Many longtime authors can only dream of such delicate sensibilities.
The writing itself is surprisingly fluid, considering that Krauss changes narrators and timeframes several times, and sometimes refers to one character by different names.Read more ›
The short answer here is yes. The characters feel genuine, the story is touching, the writing literary and accessible at the same time. It is a search for people and books lost long ago, and refound, and I'm glad I found this book.
Most recent customer reviews
I love Leonard Gursky. He makes me laugh and cry. There is a tragically human honesty to him that touches my soul. Read morePublished 10 days ago by Karen Wilson
I love all the literary references and the convoluted plot.Published 19 months ago by Deborah Bakos
A beautifully haunting tale of love, friendship, survival and finding one's place in the world. Deeply creative in tone, The History Of Love draws the transfer in like the scent of... Read morePublished on Nov. 12 2013 by J. Richardson
This book is a book every aspiring writer should read. It is extremely well written and hard to put down. It made me cry and laugh all in a few paragraphs. Read morePublished on Sept. 25 2009 by Wayne E. Stilling
I found this book to be confusing to read. I am in a book club and 3 out of the 5 present gave the book a 3 or 4 on 10, but the other two gave it a 7.5 - 8. Read morePublished on May 18 2009 by M. Burke
That's the case with "The History of Love". Its author thought that the book he wrote decades earlier was irretrievably lost. Read morePublished on Jan. 15 2008 by ELI (Italy)