Friday, 24 June 2011

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I picked this one off the shelf because it was going to be the featured book on the Radio 4 Book Club. I read the book but of course completely forgot to listen to the radio programme.
The story is about an elderly man named Leo Gursky. He fled Poland after the Second World War, the only survivor from his village. His immediate family are all dead, murdered by the Nazis. He finds refuge in New York with a distant relative who also provides him with a job as a locksmith. Leo finds the girl who he has been in love with since childhood. He discovers that she has given birth to his child. However, believing Leo to be dead, she has married someone else. Leo doesn't try to fight for either of them, he steps back so they can get on with their lives. He is very, very lonely.
Before the war he had wanted to be a writer, and had in fact written a book about his love, whose name is Alma. Alongside Leo's story we read about a young girl in New York who is named Alma after a character in her father's favourite book. Her father has died, her mother has retreated into grief, and her younger brother is developing a religious mania. In order to make sense of her world she orders things into lists.
I honestly think I will have to read this one again to completely make sense of it. It is so sad, Leo Gursky is heartbreaking (though sometimes funny - he has a great sense of humour). I never wanted to pick the book up to start reading it again because I didn't want to deal with Leo's life, but once I had picked it up I didn't want to put it down because it drew me in. It'll go back on the shelf for a while and then I'll read it again. Next time I'll be hardened to Leo and I'll be able to concentrate on the story more.


  1. This book really split our reading group. Some thought it was wonderful and others were really irritated by it. I have her new book on the shelf at the moment, but it's perhaps interesting that I haven't felt that I need to put everything to one side to get to it.

  2. Annie, I didn't quite know what to make of this book. I'm interested enough to put it back on the shelf to re-read at some point. I think the new book sounds interesting and I've heard other people say good things about it.