The History of Love;
Unfortunately, college has been killing me slowly with an unappreciated amount of work. But thankfully, today was the last day of classes and I finally have time to write my review on “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss, which I finished back in November. I know right? It took me this long to finally review. Hopefully I’ll be able to write a good enough review, but I can’t guarantee true quality considering it has been a month since I touched this book. But... lets give it a shot anyways! ALSO, this book was tumblr central. And what I mean by that is that a lot of tumblr famous quotes were from this book, and if you’re a tumblr fan like me, this was quite exciting!

“The History of Love” follows the story of three characters ultimately linked in way that is unknown to the reader till the very end. We have Leo Gursky, a lonely, somber man who has lost everything. He has lost his family, the love of his life, his son, and his dreams.  We have Alma Singer, an intelligent and curious teenager who desires to explore the wilderness but must put these dreams on hold in order to help her mother find love again. And finally we have Zvi Litvinoff, a mysterious and talented writer who shrouds himself in secrets and guilt. 

They are separated by geography, time, and age. We follow Leo Gursky as he falls in love for the first and only time in his Polish village, only to end up in an apartment in New York 60 years later tapping on the radiator every day to reassure his friend upstairs he is still alive. We follow Alma as she watches her mother fade away into the empty space left by her father’s passing, only to end up on a search for her own origins.  And we catch glimpses of Zvi as his jealousy for a dear friend leads him to an action he will regret till the very day he dies. 

Now, the book, as can be assumed jumps between these three characters, with the every so often inclusion of a 4th voice in the form of Alma’s younger brother Bird. Originally this caused a lot of confusion for me because there was never an indicator of a change in point of view, you just had to figure it out yourself as you read through the narrative. BUT THEN I found out after I finished the book that the point of views ARE actually differentiated through the use of tiny little drawings at the start of each chapter. I can’t actually remember what they each were, but I know someone’s symbol was a heart. The narratives were even more confusing when they jumped times. Sometimes you’d read about Leo in New York, other times he’d be back in Poland. Sometimes Alma’s dad would still be alive, other times he’d be dead. Sometimes Zvi was in a coffee shop meeting his future wife, other times he was off in secluded home by himself. This jumping around definitely made it difficult to keep up some times and reading other people’s reviews showed me that other people agreed. However I don’t think this was a really huge problem in the larger picture because this is a book about the history of love. You’re going to read this book and it’s going to take you through a very large progression of time. And all in all, I thought it was quite fun to figure out when and where and how these people became linked as the story jumped around. It was a puzzle.

Also what I loved was that “The History of Love” is a book inside a book. The only time I’ve experienced this type of writing before was with John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars.” “The History of Love” was published by Zvi Litvinoff and it was almost like his one hit wonder. Although it is not widely known, to those who did read it, it hit a chord. So much so that it is the one solid thing that remains constant in this whole novel. Zvi published it, Leo is haunted by it, and Alma is named after the main girl in the book. It is the vessel that carries us through this progression of time and affects everyone it comes across. 

The style of writing was definitely different. It wasn’t really anything I’ve come across before and it wasn’t necessarily hard to read but it definitely had a distinct style. Also, all the characters are Jewish so there is a lot of Hebrew in this novel. There is also Russian, which was fun. So mixing that all together, it was definitely an interesting style of writing to read. And if you need help understanding what some of the words mean, there is actually a glossary online made specifically for this book which I found quite funny. 

This novel definitely hit on some hard topics to talk about, not so much like suicide or anything, but the more philosophical types of topics. It talked about the threat of extinction and how we can disappear at any moment. This was a main fear for Leo who has lost everything and so compensated by hoarding. He worries for the day where his presence will no longer be noticed and so he hoards everything because in the end, that’s really all that is left. Alma, after her father died her mother threw away everything of his, and this kind of triggers her sudden desire to know her origins. Because it was her father who found “The History of Love” in an old bookstore, and it was her father who gave the book to her mother. And it is because of her father that she is named Alma. So really, “The History of Love” is her last link to her dad and this drives her to search all over the city to find out the history of this book. 

Obviously there is much more this novel talks about, especially about love, considering the title of the book. But as I said, I haven’t touched this book since I finished it, and I left it at home Thanksgiving break so I can’t even go back to look through it again. So, yeah. 

Overall, I didn’t really love the book, but I didn’t hate it either. It was actually quite good and I think it’s one of those books that are open to interpretation, especially the ending. Remember I mentioned John Green before? Well in TFIOS, there is a book the main characters love, and the reason for their obsession is that the narrator of the book dies mid sentence. They want to know how the book ends, what happens to the characters, everything. But how can they if the book ends so abruptly? This was me with this book. The book ends very abruptly and there’s no clear explanation about what happens after. Some people have said that they found the ending unsatisfying. For me, I don’t think it was unsatisfying per say. I think it fit well with the book and the themes of the book, and it fit well with the characters. This whole story on a basic level was about how these 3 characters were linked, so I think that when they finally figured it out, it only made sense to end it there. It’s the end of the mystery, the end of the puzzle. And obviously there is a significant meaning behind the ending but I will not write it here because if you do choose to read this book, I want you to figure it out yourself. Because really like I said, the ending can be interpreted in so many ways; it wouldn’t be fair for me to tell you my opinion. But I do wish, like the characters in John Green’s book, that there was more closure with the characters. There were so many plot lines left unresolved and I just want to know more. But, I can’t, so the best thing to do is to let it go. And this is me letting it go, by writing this review. 

This book has been critically acclaimed and loved by many. There are also people who hated this book, or people like me who are somewhere in the middle. If you are interested, please read it, it won’t do you any harm. It’s actually quite a nice book to read; especially now considering this is the time of romantic and family oriented holidays. Anyways to wrap it all up, I hope you enjoyed my review, and I hope you have a lovely day!

Published by Rachel Shin