Saturday, 22 February 2014

Review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.


Book: The History of Love

Author: Nicole Krauss

Pages: 260

How Long It Took Me To Read: 2 days.

Plot Summary: Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer is trying to find a cure for her mother's loneliness. Believing that she might discover it is an old book her mother is lovingly translating, she sets out in search of its author. Across New York an old man named Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer. He spends his days dreaming of the lost love who sixty years ago in Poland, inspired him to write a book. And although he doesn't know it yet, that book also survived: crossing oceans and generations, and changing lives...

General Thoughts: This book has been on my bookshelf since 2005, the year when this first came out. This book was a gift to my sister from a lovely couple. My sister read this book back then and I kept meaning to read it but never got around to reading it. Finally, this year, I made myself pull it out from a storage trunk (where I store some of my old books) and vowed to read it. I put it on my TBR for February and I am glad I finally read this book. 

For the longest time I only saw/knew this author as a the wife of Jonathan Safran Foer- one of my favourite authors- whose books Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are some of the best books I've ever read. I highly recommend these two books and will go a post on them in the future!

What I Liked: The writing was as expected brilliant. It was very, very well-written. I enjoyed the style and the prose. The book's premise and the connected lives of it's two main characters was really interesting. I also really liked that the inter-connected lives didn't just have a simple connection. The ways in which Alma and Leo find each other and are influenced by each other is complex, unique and a little bit magical.

The way in which the author describes Leo's life was simply perfect. The loneliness, the heart-break and the sadness Leo feels really comes across in a real and genuine way. His anger, resentment and sorrow at the life that he has lived really touched my heart. He is an old, angry, sad man who is all alone in this world and spends his days wondering when his time will be up. I also loved Leo's love story and the horrible things he has to live through.

Alma, our 14 year old parallel lead was also a fascinating character. I adored Alma's family, her recluse and lost mother and her younger brother who believes he is the Messiah. Alma's life was full of odd things and people she needed to care for. I loved Alma's voice, her spunk and her determination to fix things. I also loved how Alma was trying to stay connected to her dead father by reading his books and trying to be outdoorsy like him.

What I Didn't Like: There was just too much going on. Apart from Leo and Alma and all the people in their lives- and there were a lot of side characters. The book also had a whole other story line about the man, Leo's friend, who stole the book from Leo and published it in his name. We also saw their story and got inside their heads. Now that is not necessarily a bad thing but there was just soooo much going on in the book. Half way through the book, I felt like there were too many people, too many voices and too many back stories to focus on.

And I hate to say it..but this book was slightly pretentious. It was trying tooooo hard to be different. To be meaningful and be quirky and edgy. The ending has an open ended sort of quality, where you the reader can decide how the story ends. I am in general not a fan of this style of endings.

Rating: 2.5/5



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