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The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Literary fiction

The History of Love

by Nicole Krauss

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Quick take

What's love got to do with it? In this beautiful, continent-spanning novel, the answer just might be everything.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Emotional

    Emotional

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Writerlife

    Writer's life

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Immigration

    Immigration

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Nyc

    NYC

Synopsis

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.

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Why I love it

There are books that are wonderful and then there are books that change the way you look at books. The History of Love changed the way I look at books.

I got this book from one of my closest friends; a friend I met late in life but without whom I could not exist as the person I am today. There is a person in the world who understands me so intimately and so terribly well, and it is this person who gave me this book.

The History of Love works so incredibly well as a piece of literary artistry because it taps into some of the greatest tension we as readers can experience, and it makes us fall in love. Krauss creates a character in Leo Gursky who we need to understand and who is so very hard to understand. That tension between what we know and what we want to know keeps us riveted. And she creates in Alma a character so in need of being understood, and yet so beyond understanding that the tension is magnified. It is this dual tension that fuels the novel.

The story of a story unfolding is also what The History of Love is about. It is a search for an answer, and we not only go on the journey of the search but we are participants in watching the searcher search. It is the ultimate multi-dimensional novel in this sense: we watch a watcher watching. We struggle to watch a struggler struggling. We become a part of the novel without even realizing it. This book became a part of me as I read it and for a long time after.

Any novel that has twists and turns cannot really be written about; it needs to be experienced. The experience I had allowing this novel to unravel into a perfect pile of chaos and meaning was a transformative one as a reader and as a lover of literature. The process of watching a novel grow before your eyes as you turn the pages is spectacular.

The History of Love changed my life because of the way it made me believe. It made me believe in friendship all over again, and it made me believe in literature too. But mostly, this novel made me believe all over again in the promise of love.

Through history, we learn. The History of Love chronicles the way we learn to trust, to understand, and to love. In this way, we become a part of history.

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Member ratings (1,907)

  • Naomi H.

    Colorado Springs, CO

    I adore this book. I laughed out loud, I cried actual tears, it gave me all the feelings. Everything was so real, and also fantastic at the same time how it wove together in the end. Will def re-read!

  • Faith D.

    Los Angeles, CA

    I first read this book over twenty years ago and I have never stopped thinking about it. It is a beautiful way of telling a story. Rereading it was like pulling on a favorite sweater I thought I lost.

  • Dorothy F.

    McGehee, AR

    Have to read again!! Had to google Yiddish and Hebrew references. Loved the back & forth of perspective even though that is whyI will read again. If it doesn’t have a movie deal, it should/will IMO.

  • Melissa F.

    Costa Mesa, CA

    Just reread this one after a few years, I still adore it. Leo and Alma will stick with you for a long time. A wonderful, tragic story of love, loss and separation across families and generations.

  • Melissa B.

    Hanford , CA

    At first I grappled with understandings this book. After several chapters I was hooked! This book is ART. The characters and the writing are like no other I have ever read. Speechless and awe struck!

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