The History of Love

Oh my.

The History of Love
is breathtakingly beautiful.

Simple phrases would break my heart with their loveliness and the images that were evokes produced such sighs as I closed my eyes to savor them. Nicole Krauss (who's married to Jonathan Safran Foer) lives in my neighborhood and I'm pretty sure I've seen her around, but I kind of hope I don't run into her again, as I'd be compelled to babble something about her exquisite prose.

Told from a variety of perspectives, The History of Love follows two particular people whose lives are deeply connected to a book with the same name. Leopold Gursky is the man who wrote that book for the girl he loves, naming every woman in the book after her. After surviving Nazi-occupied Poland, he moves to New York and is now an old man, reduced to deliberately causing scenes in public places (spilling things in Starbucks, haggling for change, etc.) so he will be noticed, desperate measures born out of his crippling fear that he will die alone and undiscovered in his apartment. Alma Singer is a fourteen year old girl in present day Brooklyn, whose name came from that book and whose mother is now translating it. Her father died a few years ago and her mother is still cocooned in her grief, whereas her younger brother, Bird, is convinced that he is a lamed vovnik and quite possibly the Messiah.

Rich with the complications of life and the things that can be lost (and rediscovered) with time, Krauss expertly weaves in and out of these stories while still making sure that we are never lost.
I was given this book as a gift for Christmas (2006?) but I never picked it up... now, this could be because the ingenious friend who gave it to me inserted it in a cleverly crafted "book purse"... aka a hardcover book with handles that had a space just large enough for this paperback carved into its pages. But when I remembered its existence inside, I read this in the space of two days. I don't know if I simply needed a lovely book and so that's why my reaction is so intense, but I clearly adored it. I devoured it, trying to slow down to savor everything, but alas. It's the first book in a long time that made me reach for a pen to underline phrases and mark passages for later reference. All I can say is that if you're a friend of mine who usually gets a birthday or Christmas present and you haven't read this... well... there will be no surprise in what you'll be getting this year.

No comments: