Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I picked up The History of Love earlier this year at a book sale and it probably would have languished on my shelf (or in my closet or stacked on the floor or wherever else books land in my house), but part the Nesties' Fall Book Challenge was to trade recommendations with a friend.  By some stroke of luck, I was paired with Jacki (who blogs at Lovely Little Shelf) and who just so happens to be my reading twin.  She recommended this one and I, of course, fell in love.  It's not really a book that lends itself well to summary, as it's a story within a story within a story, but it's a beautiful meditation on love of all kinds.

Holy. Moly.  Yes.  This isn't an easy read, but it's a beautiful read.  I had some moments where I wasn't quite sure where I was in the story (it all came together at the end) but I still couldn't put it down because the words were just so beautiful.  I can't rave enough about the quality of the writing.

Entertainment Value
I was worried when I started this one.  I'd heard that there wasn't just a whole lot in the way of plot (which is kind of a literary fiction stereotype to being with) and I knew the main character, Leo Gursky, was old.  When I started reading and realized he was old and lonely, I almost stopped right then.  There are a few things that I just can't handle in books: dead mamas, little boys who just want their distant daddies to love them, and lonely old people.  I actively try to avoid books with those themes and I was kind of stressed when I realized that a major theme of this book was going to be Leo's loneliness.  If it weren't for Jacki, I probably would have thrown in the towel, and I'm so glad I didn't. 

The novel is also most definitely character-driven.  It's about motivations and family and what love means - it's not a juicy gossip novel and there's not really any action.  So you can't go into it expecting lots of drama or, honestly, much of anything plot-wise.  But that doesn't mean it's not interesting.  All of the characters are fleshed out and their motivations are understandable and sympathetic.  It's just a beautiful story (stories) and very moving. 

Highly recommend it, especially for lovers of character-driven novels or literary ficton, aspiring writers, or those who enjoy reading about complex emotions.  If you're looking for a quick read or a fast pace, this isn't the one for you, but the beautiful writing more than makes up for the lack of plot.


  1. I want to give Nicole Krauss a try one day but I am admittedly really intimidated by the thought. But I think you've convinced me. (also totally get you on the lonely old people thing!)

  2. Amy - I hope you'll try it. I'm glad Jackie pushed me to read it even though I was intimidated by it. It was a deep read and not an easy read, but also not a really hard read either. More challenging than some but still entertaining and accessible for pretty much any serious reader. Let me know what you think!