Friday, May 19, 2006

The History of Love - Nicole Krauss [May/06]

A reading group that I am familiar with read a novel by this woman's husband, so I had heard of this novel before but never found a pressing need to buy it. Then I saw it as part of a Mother's Day display at the bookstore and thought I would pick it up and read the back. It sounded so interesting by the back that I took a chance and bought it. I was not disappointed.

It is not a detailed description, all it says is:

Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer is trying to find a cure for her mother's loneliness. Believing that she might discover it in an old book her mother is lovingly translating, she sets out in search of its author. Across New York an old man named Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer. He spends his days dreaming of the love who, sixty years ago in Polnd inspired him to write a book. And although he doesn't know it yet, that book also survived: crossing oceans and generations, and changing lives...

Something about that appealed to me and I decided to see what the novel was all about. The novel is told through the eyes of bother Alma and Leo, with brief interludes of other characters interjecting their thoughts. Alma has just lost her father, something her mother has been having a hard time dealing with. When a strange man asks her to translate a book for her, she throws herself into it with the hopes of finding happiness again. This book had been important in their family. Her husband had bought it for her as a gift before they were married, and Alma is named after the main character. Every woman in the novel is based on a woman from the past.

Leo lost the love of his life because it took him a long time to follow his beloved from Poland to America. She had found out upon arrival that she was pregnant and married to save her reputation. Leo arrives in America with nothing, not even the chance to raise the child that was his. As a result he follows his sons career, as his son is a writer, and through this has a chance to be a part of something bigger than himself. With not much else to sustain him, he spends each day reaffirming that he is still alive.

The novel that binds these two characters is mysterious. The young author believes that the writer of this novel is his father, that is why he requests it to be translated. Alma seeks to find out why this novel is so important to her mother, imporant enough that she is named after the heroine. Leo gave his novel to a friend for safe-keeping, and never thought he would see it again. Fate, though, has a way of coming to call, in the form of a young boy that brings the conclusion that both lost souls need.

A very interesting novel. It is very lyrical and appealing to the heart.


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