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Saturday, May 5, 2007

Nicole Krauss: The History of Love (Rating: 9)

I just finished reading The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.

This is another of the books chosen for the "neighborhood wives book club". I got it for Julie to read but she never got around to the book (nor to book club) last month. And yet. It looked quite good to me, so I read it.

What I liked about the book:

The characters. In a sense, this was quite an unusual book character-wise, in that it seems to me that even the most minor characters were extremely well developed, or at the very least quite believable and well rounded.

The two major characters, Leo Gursky and Alma Singer each had, right from the start, very vivid and distinctive voices; true, these characters told their stories in the first person, but it was much more than that. Leo's voice, in particular, I loved.

The surprises. I thought I was enjoying the book, how you say, just fine.

Yes, "Just fine."

But—as Leo would say—"And yet."

Wham!!! Something truly out of the blue would happen that would amaze me.

Amazing us is something that not nearly enough books do.

Or, perhaps—just perhaps—"being amazing" is such an integral part of a book's job description that we take it for granted.

And yet.

When a book comes along that does that job of not only amazing you, but amazing the socks off of you, you gotta sit up and take notice.

Somebody sends Leo a copy of a manuscript. When you find out who sent it, it's "Wham! Didn't see that coming!"

Alma is trying to find somebody and when she does, it's "Wham! Didn't see that coming!"

There are other surprises as well, but I'm probably already giving too much away.

What I didn't like about this book: I found a bit of it a little confusing. When it was over I wanted to go back and reread some parts to see if I could figure out for sure if Leo and Alma had met at the beginning of the book. And there was something Leo said about his friend Bruno at the end of the book that confused me as well.

What this book made me think: This book made me think quite a bit about life, about what a journey it is, and about what we accumulate along the way—possessions, acquantences, memories, and so on—and what we discard along the way—possessions, acquantences, memories, and so on.

One of the most basic, tried and true literary techniques used by writers is to send a hero on a quest. Alma, a teenage girl, is on a quest in this book. And as she undergoes this quest, there are—as in any good quest story—things that happen along the way that make you wonder if she would have set out on this path had she known what she would encounter.

It is in this sense that Leo, an old man nearing the end of life, can look back at all he went through in his life and ask himself, "What could I have done different? And would I have changed anything if I could have?"

In all though, at the end it made me feel full, emotionally, like my heart was going to burst.

And amazed.

Ultimately, there was such a niceness to the way all the parts of the book came together.

This is a book that is so easy to recommend it is a wonder not everyone is talking about it.

Books such as this make reading fiction a rare delight.

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Jacob Skir said...

We are united in our love to 'The History of Love'.
I have summarized six creative writing ideas gained from this book:
1. no antagonist
2. unconventional start
3. the death topic
4. syncopated rhythm
5. identifying with a character
6. great sayings