The History of Love
by Nicole Krauss


Norton, 2005. ISBN 0393060349.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 01/24/2006

Fiction: Romance; Fiction: Historical

Nicole Krauss has written a strange and wonderful book. The voices of several characters weave their ways across the pages to create a lovely mélange, which by the end, makes satisfying sense.

First, we meet Leo Gursky, aging and cynical. Once, when he was a young man, living in Poland, he fell in love. And he wrote about it. And she left. And he survived the war in the forest. Now, in New York, he writes again and shows his work to his friend Bruno upstairs. When Leo finally arrives in New York, he finds the woman he had loved, married with children, one of whom is his son. Leo agrees to remain in the background but follows the life of his son who becomes a well known writer.

Then there is a girl named Alma Singer, named after a character in a book that her father bought for her mother when he was in South America. Alma's mother is translating the book from Spanish to English for a mysterious patron. Her mother also is mourning the death of Alma's father, and Alma's kid brother thinks he is a Messiah.

Interspersed are chapters from The History of Love, the book Leo wrote in Polish as a young man, which is published in South America as the work of Ziv Litvinofff. Rosa, Ziv's wife writes an introduction when the book is reissued after his death.

Yes, all of this comes together brilliantly and sweetly by the time the last page is read. Alma is only one of the detectives. Not only is she surprised by events, but so are we as we come across unexpected heros and connections. Krauss writes a book of life, full of characters who leap off the page to confide in you. And you listen. And you cheer them on. And you celebrate with them.

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