A few days ago, I finished reading The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, and it was the first book to make me cry in such a long time. Surprisingly, I didn’t know why I was crying. It wasn’t really because I was sad, and I wasn’t happy, either. I guess you could add a third category, on why you cry during books—it was almost like I was hit with the sudden reality of humanity, and that things aren’t easy, but there’s no reason be sad about it. A combination of joy and sadness.
Everything seems to be tying together—my New Year’s Resolutions included "Learn How To Be Alone". I’m still no expert, but this book made me feel like the process could be quick.
The book is told in a sort of three-part narrative which ties together at the end. First, we’re introduced to Leopold Gursky, an eighty-year-old man who often wonders who will be the last person to see him alive, and tries really hard to get noticed everywhere, even if it takes embarrassing himself, ever since his neighbor died in her apartment and nobody noticed for three days. Seventy years ago, when he still lived in Poland, he fell in love with a girl, and wrote her a book. Then there was the war and she ran away to America, then he did a while later, and the book was lost.
Next, we meet Alma Singer, a fifteen-year-old girl whose mother gets a letter in the mail from a man called Jacob Marcus, who asks her if she could translate the book The History of Love, written by Zvi Litvinoff, from the Spanish to English. He offers her $10,000 and promises to pay her in parts as she sends chapters, back and forth. Alma sees this as an opportunity for her mother to find love again, after Alma’s father died when she was seven. She writes her own secretive, flirty letter in hope of starting a relationship between her mother and this mysterious man. Alma also has a brother, nicknamed Bird (after he jumped out a window, believing he could fly), who believes he is one of God’s “chosen people”.
Thirdly, we find out Zvi Litvinoff’s background, how he came to acquire the “idea” of The History of Love, his young life, and his relationship with his wife.
These stories all intertwine and come together in the end, in the most magically, surprising manner possible. I remember when I had about sixty pages left, there was a total plot twist, and I screamed so loud, it was quite annoying, even for me. I had to put my book down and walk it out for a few minutes.
This book was totally A+. If you’ve read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close or Everything is Illuminated, you might know that these two authors are married. And people complain that their writing style and plots are too similar. I disagree. I think that a book is a book is a book and its quality depends only on how it made you feel at the end. I loved EL&IC, but I also loved The History of Love, and their different plot lines both made me feel all of the feels. I definitely cried the last fifty pages, and I couldn’t stop.
A few months ago I wrote just a short post on hands and someone mentioned that I wrote like Nicole Krauss. I had heard of her, so I ordered the book to familiarize myself, and now that I’m done, I’m so incredibly flattered, I could cry.
Do I recommend this book? Yes yes yes.
Will I read it again? Most likely, but not in the near future.
Do I love it so much I’d be willing to take it among two other books as my only source of entertainment on a stranded island? All of the yes.