The History of Love – Nicole Krauss

August 8, 2010 § 16 Comments

… there are two types of people in the world: those who prefer to be sad among others, and those who prefer to be sad alone.

I had planned on reading this book some time ago, but whenever I visited the library, I always just conveniently forgot about it, and picked some other book instead.

And then, Mee had to go and read it.

To be honest, I didn’t read her review post. But her gushing about The History of Love with Claire in our shared emails was enough to send me running (well, not quite really, but still.) to the library to get this book soonest I could.

And what a novel it has turned out to be.

If I may steal Mee’s first few sentences: I loved this book. I really really loved it. Hopelessly fell in love with it. I did. I’m not joking. Again, if I may steal from the cover of the book, what Ali Smith thought about it: A beauty of a book, totally alive, made with real energy and nerve and craft. It restores your faith in fiction. It restores all sorts of faith.

How long has it been since the last time I laughed out loud while reading? I’d burst with a loud guffaw, and my friend would look at me weird, and I’d just say, “It’s just too funny.” Then not moments later, I’d sigh, and my friend would look at me weird, and I’d say, “Sigh..”

I don’t know how to talk about this book, except that it’s just beautiful. It was full of the most tender moments I could imagine, and they made my heart melt so much I wanted to hug Leo Gursky at times. Leo is a locksmith, and this is how he describes his job:

I helped those in who were locked out, others I helped keep out what couldn’t be let in, so that they could sleep without nightmares.

The writing was amazing, it was like being lead into clouds, and all you could hear were the words being read to you. It was like having someone stroke your back as you close your eyes. It felt like being lifted off the ground.

And if the man who once upon a time had been a boy who promised he’d never fall in love with another girl as long as he lived kept his promise, it wasn’t because he was stubborn or even loyal. He couldn’t help it.

There is a book within this book, also called “The History of Love”. And I have to say, how I loved this book too. The language so lovely, the ideas so original. If I could, I wish I could read this entire book too.

If at large gatherings or parties, or around people with whom you feel distant, your hands sometimes hang awkwardly at the ends of your arms – if you find yourself at a loss for what to do with them, overcome with sadness that comes when you recognise the foreignness of your own body – it’s because your hands remember a time when the division between mind and body, brain and heart, what’s inside and what’s outside, was so much less.

Alma Singer was named by her father after every girl in this book, “The History of Love”. That’s all I’m telling you about her. Oh, and perhaps I can tell you another thing: her father was an engineer, and she thought that being an engineer meant he drove a train.

One day my father laughed and corrected me. Everything snapped into focus. It’s one of those unforgettable moments that happen as a child, when you discover that all along the world has been betraying you.

And since this post is turning out to contain more quotes than my own thoughts, here’s one that almost made me cry.

She paused, and then lifted her face to meet his. And as Litvinoff watched them kiss, he felt that everything that belonged to him was worthless.

It’s a book that cuts, deep. But it’s also a book that heals. Like Ali Smith said, it’s a book that restores all sorts of faith.

Rating: 5

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§ 16 Responses to The History of Love – Nicole Krauss

  • JoV says:

    Wow, you and Mee convinced me…. I like a book that could give me a good laugh.

    Thanks for recommending this one and I’m starting to get a little more impressed with our National library now. :p

    • Michelle says:

      Our national library still isn’t up to the standard I think it should be, but then again, at least it still does stock up with good books. Should get updated more often though.

      I do hope you read this one. Absolutely loved this book to bits.

  • Suko says:

    Mee’s review was the reason I got this book. Yours is the reason I’ll read it.

  • Frances says:

    This is one of my absolute favorite books for many of the reasons you mention. When I finished it, I just sat there and held it for a few moments. Also can’t wait to read her new book but am a little hesitant that it won’t live up.

    • Michelle says:

      I know what you mean. It’s like you want the book to stay there a little longer, the story to linger a little longer, the characters to remain real for a little while more.

      I’m always afraid other books by authors whose first book I loved would not live up. Hmm..

  • Iris says:

    I read this book a few weeks before I started blogging so I never wrote about it, but like you I feel in love with it. It is one of the bext books I have read all year.

  • mee says:

    Oh you loved it! Happy happy. It’s magical, isn’t it?! What struck me at first was also how funny the book was! Lovely review. I love “felt like being lifted off the ground.” That’s how I felt as well.

    If you loved this book, can I recommend Flowers for Algernon? You might remember I read it earlier this year too. Leo reminded me of the main character in Algernon, because of their place in society (forgotten, endearing). Algernon is not a love story, but it’s full of heart, like The History of Love.

    • Michelle says:

      I’ve been keeping a look out for Flowers for Algernon since the last time I read your post on it. I’m definitely looking forward to it more now, especially since you’re comparing the both. =)

  • Nishita says:

    Wow…your review makes me want to read this book right away!

    I wonder why all along I equated this book in the Eat, Pray, Love category? Based on your review and the quotes, it sounds far superior to that

    • Michelle says:

      Haven’t read Eat, Pray, Love, so I have got no comment about that. But this book is just so lovely, you’re bound to fall in love with it.

  • kiss a cloud says:

    Yay!! Now surely David HAS to pick this book up, considering the three of us SUPER loved it. This is just so beautiful and I don’t know what else.. just.. sigh.. you know what I mean.. I’m so glad you loved it as much as we did..

    • Mark David says:

      Haha! Yes, now I REALLY REALLY REALLY have to read this! (one “really” for each of you, hehe). I do remember Mee talking about probably looking weird on the train because she was crying at the end of the book šŸ™‚

    • Michelle says:

      I really hope David does pick up this book. Like you said, it’s just too beautiful.

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