Friday, July 20, 2012

"The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss

The History of Love
For Intense Discussion!

Nine members (an almost perfect number for discussion) of Between The Lines Book Club discussed The History of Love, the second novel of Nicole Krauss, published in 2005 and a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction.  This is a serious novel, not to be recommended as a lighthearted summer read.  For someone wanting substance, depth and with compassion for sympathetic characters, this fits the bill.

The novel follows two main characters living in contemporary New York City.  Leo Gursky is an elderly, lonely Jewish man who survived the Holocaust by hiding in the Polish woods.  Alma is a 15 year old girl struggling after the death of her father.  The descriptions of these two are heartbreakingly real and at times hilariously funny.  There are several "loves" in this novel, each making for intense discussion.  The "book within the book" most agreed was not as compelling as the rest of the novel.

Some members couldn't say if they liked or disliked the book although they were glad they read it.  Several loved the book and even wanted to reread it.  There are a few twists that are shocking and the ending is ambiguous.  Both the twists and the ending caused lots of back and forth discussion.  A second reading would be worthwhile because of the knowledge the reader would now have.  Leo, especially, would be viewed in an even more tragic light.

We discussed some of the comments from the Internet.  The author is married to another, more famous author, Jonathan Safran Foer.  He wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close which none of us had read.  Some comments on the Internet are critical of Nicole Krauss because both her book and her husband's feature similar characters and some plot lines.  Also, they both use similar and uncommon literary techniques.  Members dismissed this criticism as we are reading for pleasure and discussion, not a critical analysis of literature.

As mentioned, this is a complex book for serious readers and is highly recommended especially for book clubs.

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