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The History of Love

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  78,899 ratings  ·  7,830 reviews
Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he s still alive. But it wasn t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book. . . . Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her fami...more
Paperback, 260 pages
Published May 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published April 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

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“For my Charlotte, my Alma. This is the book I would have written for you if I could write.” (108)

I thank Nicole Krauss for writing this book for me because I could not write it for myself. This is the book I would have written if I could write. I would have written this book for myself; for all that I have lost; and for all that I hope to yet find. Nicole gives my loss words on wing. Nicole writes with the wisdom and skill of the aged.

I can’t reveal much about the plot. This is a review where...more
I need to cut the crap with my preconceptions. Although I almost unfailingly launch into a new novel with great enthusiasm like a kid on Christmas morning, anxious to discover what hidden treasure awaits, for some reason I held out little hope for Mrs. Foer’s book about a book about love. Maybe it’s because books about books about love aren’t usually my thing? Maybe it’s because I read her husband’s bestseller last year and was less than impressed? Maybe it’s because I had heard somewhere that t...more
Nicole Krauss is married to Jonathan Safran Foer. They both live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and they both write clever, critically acclaimed novels featuring preciously innocent narrators, magical realism, and some safe postmodern "experiments" (blank pages, pictures, excessive repetition, etc.) that you'd notice just by flipping through. I loved Foer's Everything is Illuminated, liked his Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close okay, and liked Krauss's History of Love a little less. I'm wondering now...more
Ian Paganus de Fish
Original Comments (Pre-Review):

I would like to review this novel more formally in the near future, but to do so I'll have to flick through it and refresh my memory.

My reaction at the time was that it was one of the best novels I had ever read.

Nicole Krauss understands people and love and feelings and she writes about them in a word perfect way.

As a reader, I am prepared to go wherever she wants to take me. I will trust her judgement.

I have recently watched a few of her videos and interviews on Y...more
Have you ever felt so moved that it's as if you're possessed? Reading The History of Love was like having my chest cracked open, the words flooding into me.

Some passages I loved:

The floorboards creaked under my weight. There were books everywhere. There were pens, and a blue glass vase, an ashtray from the Dolder Grand in Zurich, the rusted arrow of a weather vane, a little brass hourglass, sand dollars on the windowsill, a pair of binoculars, an empty wine bottle that served as a candle holder,...more
1. What I like about Krauss's novel.

Leo Gursky's melancholy, lonely presence. The sections of the novel told from his perspective are hauntingly beautiful.

Alma's precocious teenager voice. Her voice is less compelling for me than that of Leo Gursky, but still good.

The slow development of the connections between Leo, Alma, Zvi Litvinoff, Isaac, and the book The History of Love, in terms not only of plot but of theme.

2. What is mildly irritating about the book.

Leo's habit of saying "And yet."

Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Aug 10, 2013 Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Shelli Bentley
Great original story. While it is sad its rescued from bleakness by Krauss’s subtle humour and her inclusion of a mystery. A pursuit to unravel the origin of an obscure novel also called ‘The History Of Love” the book within this book that also happens to contain some great passages - the chapter 'The Birth of Feeling' my personal fav. Krauss excels in writing rich believable characters. Switching POV mainly between Leo Gursky, a Holocaust survivor & Alma Singer, a 14-year old grieving the l...more
Emily May
I tend to be an emotional reader and my ratings reflect that. I finish books filled with excitement or sadness or intense dislike and write equally passionate reviews/rants, often including snazzy gifs to make my point. This is why some classics get 1 star and J.K. Rowling gets 5 stars and even Twilight gets 2 stars - I feel it's almost impossible to objectively judge quality of writing and literary value, so I usually rate based on the emotional effect the book had on me. That being said, I occ...more
How about the history of me bawling my face off.
Beth F.
If the opportunity to read this book in one sitting would have been available to me, I probably would have taken it. Unfortunately my job tends to cramp my reading style more often than not (admittedly not the worst problem in the world to have), but sometimes I can’t help but think about how much reading I could get done if I didn’t have to spend the best hours of my day doing work. Oh well. I suppose that is what retirement will be for.

I really loved this book. The characters spoke to me and...more
This book was promising at the beginning, but proceeded to get sloppy and puzzling, and then ended in an unsatisfying and unclear way. It's a convoluted plot involving a Polish Jew who falls completely for a childhood girlfriend, writes a book about her, and then is separated from both by the Holocaust. Not knowing the book was eventually published by the friend to whom he gave it for safekeeping, he now lives his old age in New York, lonely and waiting to die. His story is interwoven with that...more
K.D. Absolutely
It is not hard to like this book. The writing is stylish. Four POVs with two different settings and starts way back from the Second World War to the present. This is basically a love story between two young lovers in Poland. They get separated because the father of the girl sends her to America not knowing that she is pregnant with a child. The young boy follows the girl to America only to find out that she is already married and the child does not know that he is the father. So, the poor man, L...more
Teresa Jusino
I finished reading "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss a few days ago. Here's a synopsis:

"An unlikely and unforgettable hero, Leo Gursky is a survivor -- of war, of love, and of loneliness. A retired locksmith, Leo does his best to get by. He measures the passage of days by the nightly arrival of the delivery boy from the Chinese restaurant and has arranged a code with his upstairs neighbor: Three taps on the radiator means, "ARE YOU ALIVE?, two means YES, one NO." But it wasn't always so. Si...more
I've seen The History of Love on several other blogger's reading lists and after being made aware of the fact that the author, Nicole Krauss, is married to the author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a book I enjoyed only a couple of months ago, I made a reservation at the library.

In the mood for a romance, when it arrived, I bumped this book past others that have been sitting on my nightstand longer. At first, I was completely absorbed in the writing and Leo Gursky. I even told Emily thi...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Thank you to the lovely, anonymous man in the Port Credit Starbucks who handed me the napkins, without a word, as I finished this up not an hour ago with tears filling my eyes.

It was a perfect moment perfectly matched to this pretty much perfect book.

Read this book if:
1) you liked Incredibly Loud Extremely Close, Everything is Illuminated and/or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
2) you like fictional, character-driven stories of Holocaust survivors e.g., The...more
Great enjoyable book. Seth is right. To a small extent it deals with the Holocaust, but to a much larger extent it deals with some of the after effects of the Holocaust specifically and genocide in general. It was recommended to me by a friend who is a clinical psychologist with an expertise in the transmission of trauma to future generations. Well written.
She wrote one book before this, "Man Walks Into A Room" and one since, "The Great House." I plan on reading both.
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
This beautiful story is about an eighty year old Jewish-Polish immigrant and retired locksmith, Leo Gursky; a fourteen year old girl, Alma Singer, who is trying to find a way to make her mother not sad anymore; and Zvi Litvinoff, the author of an obscure book called The History of Love. What they each have to do with one another isn't at first apparent, but becomes all too clear and inseparable as you read on.

It is a love story, a story of survival and ageing, of memory and imagination, of sadne...more
Disappointing ending & trite, too.
I think the plotting is pretty piss-poor. A very convoluted bifurcated structure of telling a story that hinges on a poor coincidental set of facts, and when you really stop to think about it -- you wonder if you've just spent 200 pages reading and trying to guess at two or three patched up facts that hardly amount to a mystery. Krauss has an engaging storytelling style, even stunning prose at times, punctured with welcome humor, but the strands do not come...more
Jan 16, 2008 Charissa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: hopeless poets wandering in the wilderness
Recommended to Charissa by: fate
This is the sort of book that I didn't expect to like, given that the title seems ridiculously ambitious. But in a moment of optimism I bought it anyway, and boy did it pay off. Nicole Krauss skirts the intimidating topic of romantic love by sneaking up behind other kinds of love and encouraging them to stop leaning against the wall at the dance and get out there and share their groove thang. She weaves together disparate threads of lives until, by the end, you see the vast, beautiful, silken as...more
Aug 03, 2014 Caroline rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Water for Elephants; those who like child narrators

How to sum up The History of Love? Jigsaw puzzle in book form, maybe. For a book only just over 250 pages, it is quite a lot of story to mull over and piece together. This complicated tale unfolds from the point of view of no fewer than four narrators: an elderly man, Leo; a teen girl, Alma; her prepubescent brother, Bird; and a third-person omniscient narrator. Only because the human characters are as distinct and lovable as they are does it seem ther...more
Dec 05, 2009 Matt rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Matt by: da Wife, Jessica Clayton
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 23, 2007 Bryn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone in love with language
By page 11 I knew I was going to love this book. Krauss' writing style is simply incredible. I will admit I was somehwat confused by the story itself and had to back up several times (and the ending?), but reading this one tasted as good as a box of Godvia chocolates. If I ever catch up with all the books I want to read a first time, I will definitely revisit this one.

P.S. Did a little Google searching to try to figure out what I missed. While I was largely unsuccessful, I did find some interest...more
It's funny how just straightening up your bookshelves can lead to opening a book just to read the first couple thing you know you've read half of it.


I never expected this to be so good. Really, it was just beautiful. Just thinking about Leo Gursky's character gives me a lump in my throat. Even typing his name, I'm blinking back tears.

I loved this book.
Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

I'm really at a loss for what to say.

Leo Gursky has been following me around for days. I went to the Starbucks drive-thru yesterday and, as I waited in line, I thought about going inside. I could order a coffee and spill milk all over the floor. I could trip over the New York Times rack. I could spill the free used coffee grounds all over the floor. I could have everyone's eyes on me. If only for a day, I would be seen.

Leo's invisibility was overpowering. He had a fri...more
This was a gorgeously realized, thoroughly moving book. I love the way Krauss wove together the various threads of the story, the hazy lines between fiction and reality that really serve to illustrate the surreal, lonely lives of the characters within the book and the book within a book.

The passages from the history of love (which is the book within the book in question) are my favorite parts. The imagery she uses is unique, poignant, delicately beautiful, and connects wonderfully with the audi...more
I came to this book expecting to be unimpressed, and I am not normally that type of reader. But I had read articles about Kraus and her husband (Jonathan Safran Foer) and how their latest novels were eerily similar. Having loved her husband’s book, I figured The History of Love would be a let down. I was wrong.

While I loved the precociousness of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close's Oskar, despite many criticizing Foer for it, after reading THOL Oskar just isn’t as appealing. Sure, his search is...more
"Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering."
Nicole Krauss could have opened her book with this wonderful line, which doesn't come until a few pages later. Instead, she opens with thoughts from the wonderful old Leo Gursky: "When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, LEO GURSKY IS SURVIVED BY AN APARTMENT FULL OF SHIT. I'm surprised I haven't been buried alive." Right from the beginning...more

A Reflection on The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
from The Page Walker

Once in a while, a certain novel will cross our path and it will capture us in a way that mere words will not suffice to describe how we felt after reading it. The History of Love is unbelievably strong; its wonders are beyond my capacity to convey. While reading the book, I remember how many times my eyes brimmed with tears, yet I remember beaming and laughing too. Such veritable diversity of emotions in one novel is oftent...more
Post-modern trickery, deceased fathers and their precocious offspring, WWII/Holocaust-era backstories, interweaving narratives tied together by endearingly convenient coincidences and gradually unveiled personal histories. No, I’m not speaking of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (which, admittedly, I adore), I’m referring to his other half’s novel.

The novel that introduced me to one of my favorite voices in contemporary fiction: Leo Gursky.

I’m fairly certain that many...more
"To paint a leaf, you have to sacrifice the whole landscape. It might seem like you're limiting yourself at first, but after a while you realize that having a quarter-of-an-inch of something you have a better chance of holding on to a certain feeling of the universe than if you pretended to be doing the whole sky." (45)

"He ran his fingers down the spine over her thin blouse, and for a moment he forgot the danger he was in, grateful for the world which purposefully puts divisions in place so that...more
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Nicole Krauss is the author of the international bestseller The History of Love, which was published by W.W. Norton in 2005. It won the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Ėtranger, was named #1 book of the year by, and was short-listed for the Orange, Médicis, and Femina prizes. Her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room, was a finalist for the...more
More about Nicole Krauss...
Great House Man Walks Into a Room An Arrangement of Light Zusya on the Roof Best European Fiction 2012

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“Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.” 7595 likes
“there are two types of people in the world: those who prefer to be sad among others, and those who prefer to be sad alone.” 1986 likes
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