Thursday, October 16, 2008

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I'm quite taken with this book, in fact, maybe I should say I'm stuck on it. The main character, the long-suffering Leopold Gursky, is one of the most endearing characters I've ever met in a novel, and I lingered over his thoughts.

In the beginning, you learn that Leo is completely without family, lives alone in an overstuffed apartment, and has exactly one friend in the world, another eccentric, Bruno. Leo has a fear of dying on a day when he has been unseen by anyone, so he does some rather comic things to make sure that people do notice him. This man doesn't seem to realize just how lonely he is. The heartbreaking part of the story, though, is that before he emigrated from Poland, many years ago, he was an aspiring writer who was in love with a young woman named Alma Mereminski, and after they were separated by unfortunate events, he wrote a book about his feelings for her.

This is where Krauss's novel turns into a mystery novel. What happened to Gursky's novel? The reader knows that it was published, and in fact the other main character in Krauss's novel is the teenaged Alma Singer, who was named for the Alma in Gursky's novel by her father, who came across The History of Love in an out-of-the-way used bookstore and was quite taken with it.

Got that? Except--I hate it when people review books and say too much, especially when there's a mystery involved, and this one unfolds in an unexpected way. It's not just about the book, but also about Gursky's relations, and how a young girl reaches across a couple generations to piece together an intriguing story, as well as her place in her own story.
It's a moving book, and now that I've finished it, I miss it. And yet. I will give up for the next person:)

One interesting little factoid is that the auther, Nicole Krauss, happens to be married to Jonathan Safran Foer.


Ariel the Thief said...

I know that feeling. It happened that after finishing a book I was carrying it around wherever I went, just trying to put off saying goodbye. :)

TLP said...

Me, me, me! Pick me. Let me read it.

Sounds really good. Except that Alma thing.

Jocelyn said...

Hi, sweetie--It's been too long. But hi!

I've been looking for something to read, and you may have just directed me to my next pick.