Day 677: The History of Love

Cover of The History of LoveBest Book of the Week!
At times I wasn’t sure that I would be able to figure out what was going on in The History of Love. This feeling may not be unfamiliar to readers of Nicole Krauss. My book club was so frustrated by Great House a few years back that I had to draw a diagram to help figure out the series of owners of a desk. However, The History of Love eventually becomes clear, with an eminently satisfying ending.

For most of the novel, we follow two main characters. Leo Gursky is an old Jewish immigrant in New York, a survivor of the holocaust from Poland. Years ago he fell in love with Alma Mereminski but was separated from her just before World War II when she went to America. When he tracked her down after the war, she had married. Her oldest son, though, was 6.

Leo has led a lonely life, during which he yearned for Alma and for his unacknowledged son, Isaac Moritz, who became a famous writer. As an old man, he spends part of each day trying to draw attention to himself in some small way, so that if he dies that day, someone will have seen and remembered him.

Alma Singer is a lonely 14-year-old. Years ago her father died, and her mother has ever since lived a life of quasi-mourning, seldom coming out of her room and only doing some occasional translation work. Alma’s brother Bird is a strange boy who believes he is blessed by god. He is preparing an ark for the coming flood.

Alma has been trying to find a boyfriend for her mother so she won’t be sad. One project that interests her mother is a request to translate a book called The History of Love by Zvi Litvinoff that had a small publication run in Chile. This book was very important to Alma’s parents, and Alma was named after a character in the book. Alma thinks she perhaps can strike up a relationship between her mother and the man who requested the translation. But then she notices that the only character in the book who doesn’t have a Spanish name is Alma Mereminski. Reasoning that it may be a real person’s name, she decides to find Alma.

It is Leo who actually wrote The History of Love, we understand, inspired by his love for Alma. But then what happened?

This novel is intricate and vividly imagined. Ultimately, it is emotionally involving. I did not really enjoy the excerpts from the novel within the novel, which seem to be trying too hard to be profound, but those make up only a very small part of the book.

Related Posts

Great House

Beautiful Ruins

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots


6 thoughts on “Day 677: The History of Love

  1. My Book Strings March 26, 2015 / 3:19 pm

    I read this book last month and still don’t know how to write a coherent review for it. You’ve summarized it so well! I enjoyed reading it and I agree with you that it was satisfying, but I don’t think I love it as much as lots of other people do.

  2. Naomi March 26, 2015 / 3:37 pm

    I loved this book. I think mainly because I love Leo Gursky – I have a weakness for grumpy old men. I kept wanting to rush through the other parts to get back to Leo. I have Great House, but have been scared to read it, for the reasons you’ve pointed out. Is it worth it?

    • whatmeread March 26, 2015 / 6:24 pm

      I liked this one a lot more than great house. We honestly felt as if Krauss wrote Great House as a traditional book and then cut it up. But I liked it better than the rest of my book club. I would say that if you can tolerate not always knowing where you are in time, it’ll be fine.

  3. Emily J. March 26, 2015 / 7:00 pm

    I couldn’t get through this one. I tried to read it when it first came out and it just didn’t capture my attention.

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