The History of Love 💙 by Nicole Krauss

Later—when things happened that they could never have imagined—she wrote him a letter that said: When will you learn that there isnt a word for everything?

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Words I’d use to describe this book: intricate, ambitious, enjoyable. But those words don’t feel all encompassing.

The History of Love is a multi-perspective story about expressing oneself (especially ones desires). It describes a book also titled The History of Love, and uses it was a talisman of sorts—interacting with the lives of various, otherwise unrelated characters, eventually tying a few of them together. You have Leo, a Holocaust survivor who lives a lonely existence, purposely making scenes at the local coffee shop in fear that otherwise he will go unnoticed. There’s Alma, the teenage survivalist who funnels her grief over the death of her father into attempts to make her mother happy again, including writing letters to potential suitors. It also includes passages from the aforementioned book as well as information about its fictional author, Zvi Litvinoff.

These multiple narratives converge upon The History of Love, and also share an overall theme of the power of words. This question of is there a word for everything? / what do you do when words arent enough? frequently reminded me of another book I read recently—The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. Where Nelson addresses this question in a nonfiction framework of how to address and describe her queer existence with her queer partner within the heterosexual construct, each of Krauss’ characters struggle with using the words they are given, when in many ways (either dealing with the tragedy and trauma of the Holocaust, or in the grief of losing a loved one), words are failing them, being stolen, repurposed, relabeled, and presented in peculiar ways.

What I didn’t love so much:

  • The group of readers I was reading along with all agreed that the nonlinear events were a little difficult to follow. Heres a helpful list of events in chronological order that I think would be useful for anyone reading this! (Watch out: spoilers!)
  • I couldve done without the character of Bird altogether. Although I understood how he represents another facet of surviving and perhaps functions as a mirror for his sister’s grieving process, his role in this story felt minuscule in comparison to the other characters.
  • At times, this project felt like an unfinished web. Krauss’ ambitious mission is clear, but at only 250 pages, some aspects are left to fray. The key facets of characters like Bruno are revealed, but additional details (such as whether he is connected to the real author of the Street of Crocodiles) remain strands left unknotted. Although one of the alluring qualities of the novel is how much of it can be left for interpretation, the unfinished touches left me a hair away from satisfied—but eager to shelve this book to reread in a few years!

The Short Review:

The History of Love

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I somehow went through the beginning of this millennium without reading anything by Krauss or even having heard of this book. It is beautifully written, with some lovable characters that outshine the less-than-captivating ones. It’s intricate and feels as if Krauss is trying to do too much with her prose at times—which is fitting since the characters also struggle with expressing their stories. This isn’t one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, but I happy to have read it; I’d recommend this to just about anybody.

View all my reviews on Goodreads!

I read this along with #BookBeatBuddies in my first ever Bookstagram buddy read! Thanks Kathleen for hosting! Here are some reviews from our group that I loved:

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The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss. . “When will you learn that there isn’t a word for everything.” . The History of Love is a story full of stories. It Leo Gursky’s story, who escaped the Nazis as a boy and followed Alma, his childhood love, to America, only to discover she married someone else. Now an old man, Leo fears dying on a day when no one has noticed he exists. In his youth Leo wrote one beautiful book about Alma, called The History of Love, and he believes it to be lost. But it isn’t. Another story is Alma Singer’s. She’s a New Yorker like Leo, fourteen and trying to keep the memory of her father alive while navigating the landscape of her mother’s loneliness. Alma was named after the heroine in her parents’ favourite book, The History of Love. She thinks if she can only find the mysterious author of this book – the book her mother is now translating – she will be able to pull her mother out of her grief. Leo and Alma’s stories slowly bend towards each other, ending in a meeting that will be difficult for readers to forget. Krauss’s work has a strong sense of longing. It’s about loss and invisibility, life-changing love and creativity. And there are some moments of real humour too. It’s rare and wonderful for me when a book can provoke sadness and laughter. The eccentric cast of characters are all searching for something, and you won’t see how it all comes together until it does. The structure might frustrate at times, but not much seems “out there” to me after Milkman. I did have the sense that I would appreciate more of how this book is put together on a second reading. Krauss’s style is lyrical and poetic and I lingered over many parts, just enjoying her way with words. Most of all it had me thinking about how words unsaid are often far more powerful than the stories we are able to tell. Thank you to Kathleen @bookbeat for hosting this readalong, and ❤️ to Jessica, @justagirlwithabook, for sending me this as a giveaway win. I hope to read it again and take even more from this layered, intricate story the second time around. A future possibility for #thereadiscoverproject for sure. What’s a backlist title you’ve felt glad to discover lately?

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Is anyone else behind on reviews? 😅 I’m going to play catch up with some #shortstackreviews. THE HISTORY OF LOVE ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This book was the February #bookbeatbuddies pick. I found it to have some distracting details and characters, but I loved how much was said beneath the surface of this one as well as the beautiful prose. It was a great story for analyzing the reason why we read and write. And it illustrated a story’s reach when it is written with pure, unconditional love. FLASH FICTION INTERNATIONAL ⭐️⭐️ I love flash fiction and have a hard time finding it at the library and bookstores. Unfortunately, this collection felt heavy on the shock value (sex, violence) and light on the craft. Flash writing is so intricate and full. Every word, every punctuation matters. Instead of rising to that challenge, it felt like the writers tried to grab the reader with messy, “surprising,” and (ultimately) redundant content. LILY’S CROSSING ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I read this middle grade book as part of my personal challenge to read books recommended by my family. My sister read LILY’S CROSSING in elementary school and asked me to read this milestone, childhood book. I loved the different layers of the story. Lily is an American girl living out adventures on her summer vacation during WW2. So much of her world comes undone, but Lily’s spirit, hopefulness, and spunkiness prevail. ANNE OF GREEN GABLES ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I finally read it! I will echo my earlier sentiment — this book is about my daughter. The other morning, my daughter jumped on my bed asking for her broken toy. She said, “Please, Mommy. I know it’s broken, but I will use my imagination. My imagination is my most favorite thing!” I love the timelessness of Anne’s story, and that she learns good truths and how to forgive and love well. I plan to continue the series eventually. In the meantime, I will participate in the daily sagas of my “Anne”. Have you read any of these? What do you think? #kathleensbookbeat #bookstack #bookreviews #thehistoryoflove #anneofgreengables #flashfictioninternational #lilyscrossing #middlegrade #classicliterature #bookblogger #shortbookreviews #whattoread #bibliophile #bookstagrammer

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