The History of Love
By Nicole Krauss
PBR Book Review:The History of Love by Nicole Krauss is a beautiful mystery about love and loss. Centered upon a book called “The History of Love,” the novel follows the two narrators and their relationship with the book. The first is Leo Gusksy, an elderly Holocaust survivor living a sad lonely life in NYC. Leo lost the love of his life and his son to another man as a result of the war. As he struggles to find meaning in his life he becomes suspicious of who may be the author of this book, it sounds very familiar to a book he wrote long ago. The second narrator is Alma, a14 year-old girl named after a character in the book. "The History of Love" was given to Alma's mother as a gift from her husband. In an attempt to heal her mother's grief, Alma is determined to find the book's author. As Krauss weaves this wonderful tale, the voices of both Leo and Alma penetrate your heart as you feel their loneliness and desperation. This is an emotionally rich book, reminding readers how fragile life can be. This is also a story you must follow closely while reading. The two stories Krauss weaves together are occasionally convoluted and hard to follow. There is a lot to discuss in this book and would make a great Book Club book.
Book Club Talking Points:
There are several threads that run through this story, providing many avenues for discussion and interpretation. The beauty of this story lies in the quirky characters and their history. It provides many opportunities to explore the strength and weakness of the human spirit. How they are all connected to the book “The History of Love” brings yet another dimension to the conversation.
*Author Website: http://nicolekrauss.com/index.html
*Other Books by Same Author: Great House
1. Leo Gursky and Alma Singer make an unlikely pair, but what they share in common ultimately brings them together. What are the similarities between these two characters?
2. Leo fears becoming invisible. How does fiction writing prove a balm for his anxiety?
3. Explore the theme of authenticity throughout the narrative. Who’s real and who’s a fraud?
4. Despite his preoccupation with his approaching death, Leo has a spirit that is indefatigably comic. Describe the interplay of tragedy and comedy in The History of Love.
5. What distinguishes parental love from romantic love in the novel?
6. Why is it so important to Alma that Bird act normal? How normal is Alma?
7. When Alma meets Leo, she calls him the “oldest man in the world.” Does his voice sound so ancient?
8. Uncle Julian tells Alma, “Wittgenstein once wrote that when the eye sees something beautiful, the hand wants to draw it.” How does this philosophical take on the artistic process relate to the impulse to write in The History of Love?
9. Many different narrators contribute to the story of The History of Love. What makes each of their voices unique? How does Krauss seam them together to make a coherent novel?
10. Survival requires different tactics in different environments. Aside from Alma’s wilderness guidelines, what measures do the characters in the novel adopt to carry on?
11. Most all of the characters in the novel are writers—from Isaac Moritz to Bird Singer. Alma’s mother is somewhat exceptional, as she works as a translator. Yet she is not the only character to transform others’ words for her creative practice. What are the similarities and differences between an author and a translator?
12. What are the benefits of friendship in the novel? Why might Alma feel more comfortable remaining Misha’s friend rather than becoming his girlfriend?
13. The fame and adulation Isaac Moritz earns for his novels represent the rewards many writers hope for, while Leo, an unwitting ghostwriter, remains unrecognized for his work. What role does validation play in the many acts of writing in The History of Love?
14. Leo decides to model nude for an art class in order to leave an imprint of his existence. He writes to preserve the memories of his love for Alma Mereminski. Yet drawings and novels are never faithful renditions of the truth. Do you recognize a process of erasure in the stories he tells us?
15. Why might Krauss have given her novel the title The History of Love, the same as that of the fictional book around which her narrative centers?
W. W. Norton & Company; May 17, 2006 - Fiction - 252 pages|
A long-lost book reappears, mysteriously connecting an old man searching for his son and a girl seeking a cure for her widowed mother's loneliness. Leo Gursky is just about surviving, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive. But life wasn't always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And though Leo doesn't know it, that book survived, inspiring fabulous circumstances, even love. Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that very book. And although she has her hands full keeping track of her brother, Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah), and taking copious notes on How to Survive in the Wild she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With consummate, spellbinding skill, Nicole Krauss gradually draws together their stories. This extraordinary book was inspired by the author's four grandparents and by a pantheon of authors whose work is haunted by loss Bruno Schulz, Franz Kafka, Isaac Babel, and more. It is truly a history of love: a tale brimming with laughter, irony, passion, and soaring imaginative power.