Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

author Nicole Krauss
Reviewed by Connie

Published: 2005

It's about: "Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he s still alive. But it wasn t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book. . . . Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With virtuosic skill and soaring imaginative power, Nicole Krauss gradually draws these stories together toward a climax of extraordinary depth and beauty (Newsday)"

I thought: While reading this book, I couldn't help but pick up on all the ways it is similar to Jonathan Safran-Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, about which I was rather ambivalent. They both experiment with post-modern elements and feature quirky young narrators. And then there are the similarities in the stories themselves. They're both the stories of children who have lost their fathers and who embark on a hunt through New York to resolve their loss. Mix in both books' elderly immigrants directly affected by WWII, and yeah, I'd say these books are pretty similar.

After finishing the book, I come to find out that Nicole Krauss is married to Jonathan Safran-Foer, and these two, strikingly similar books were released around the same time. Make of that what you will.

Laying all that aside, The History of Love was an enjoyable read filled with beautiful moments of poetry. Although in the beginning I found the various story lines that didn't seem to connect a tad confusing, they eventually come together in surprising and satisfying ways. Perhaps its greatest weakness is the abrupt ending that offers little emotional gratification or conclusion.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf

Reading Recommendations: If you enjoyed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, there's a pretty darn good chance you'll enjoy this as well.

Warnings: none

Favorite excerpts:
"There are passages of my book I know by heart. By heart, this is not an expression I use lightly. My heart is weak and unreliable. When I go it will be my heart. I try to burden it as little as possible. If something is going to have an impact, I direct it elsewhere. My gut for example, or my lungs, which might seize up for a moment but have never yet failed to take another breath."

"Alberto Giacometti said that sometimes just to paint a head you have to give up the whole figure. To paint a leaf, you have to sacrifice the whole landscape... My mother did not choose a leaf or a head. She chose my father, and to hold onto a certain feeling, she sacrificed the world."

What I'm reading next: I'm re-reading The Life of Pi by Yann Martel with my book group in preparation for the movie's release