Next up, Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love– Leo Gursky is trying to survive. He spends his days ensuring that people will notice his presence, and his evenings tapping his radiator to inform his best friend (the upstairs neighbor) that he’s still alive. At eighty, he’s a man struggling not to fade away. Sixty years ago, just before the war, life was different for the young Leo; he fell in love, and he wrote a book. Believing the book to have been lost after his escape from Poland, he is unaware of its survival, let alone of its publication. Across New York, Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that very book. With a brother convinced that he is the messiah, and a widowed mother consumed with grief, Alma sets out to find the author of her namesake, hoping to simultaneously find happiness for her mother.
The History of Love is as readable for fourteen-year-olds, as it is for those having just turned eighty, and will wrench your heart nearly as often as it makes you laugh aloud. Despite whatever the title may suggest, It’s not an all-encompassing attempt to embrace the sappy side of life, rather the book is more about loss- the loss of love, the loss of a loved one, and what to do with the love that remains. It’s sad, touching, intrinsically hopeful, but I think the charm in this book is in its honesty; the very real fears that come with being human, at any age, and the lengths we will go to in order to keep the ones we love, safe.
As an antidote to Twilight, this book deals heavily with mortality. Leo, is constantly facing the possibility of death, while Alma, having lost her father to cancer, deals daily with what happens after. What’s unique about Krauss’ novel though, is that it doesn’t only deal with the love between a man and a woman. It explores the love of a father for his lost son, a daughter for her dead father, a writer for his work, a reader for the work’s writer, and even a friend for a friend.
Beautifully written, and exquisitely imagined, this book is one of those that touched me so deeply, that I’ve bought it for every reader in my life. Male, female, young or old. At the risk of sounding trite, it’s a book for anyone, who’s ever loved….anybody.