Matthew's Reviews > The History of Love

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
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Jul 17, 2007

it was ok

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 if my appreciation for Everything is Illuminated (and my waning appreciation for the other two books) is due to the fact that I read it first. I hope not.

Here there are three narrators: Leo Gursky, a Holocaust survivor and sometimes writer, living alone in New York, waiting to die; 14-year-old Alma Singer, a precocious girl who has to deal not only with her father's death but with her mother's subsequent depression as well; and a third person omniscent narrator who relates the story of a little-known book called (wait for it) The History of Love. It goes without saying that these characters are connected in ways they don't understand (hint: by the mysterious book) and that somehow this connection, once made, will help everyone involved. That's all fine.

Things, however, don't come together as well as they should at the end, despite some beautiful writing, and the book that lies at the core of this story, the book that has lived on for generations, changing lives along the way, is really just an annoyingly simple allegory about the genesis of "love" and other "feelings". Krauss has obvious talent, but it isn't enough to corral this messy pastiche of a novel.

"I try to make a point of being seen. Sometimes when I'm out, I'll buy a juice even though I'm not thirsty. If a store is crowded I'll even go so far as dropping my change all over the floor, the nickels and dimes skidding in every direction."
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Reading Progress

02/05/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by Elaine (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:05PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Elaine I did not know she was married to Jonathan Safran Foer. Learn something new everyday. I agree with you -- the empty pages thing feels rather gimmicky.

But your review echoed my sentiments exactly -- i thought the ending was shabbily done as well! But you said it much better!


Linda Thanks for the heads up about the two writers being married! My Sister's partner recently recommended Extremly Loud and I can't wait to read it. I may have to send Peter and Sarah this book also to complete the circle.


Jessica Jackson Well said!


Jenny Oh my goodness, I am only 40 pages in and I was thinking as I read the first few pages, "This is like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." How funny that she is married to him since they write so similarly!


Lauren Matthew Boyd, you are one insightful, intelligent writer. Hope you are an agent, or an editor, or a writer yourself. As an English teacher, you are the kind of student I dream of having in my class. At any rate, I just wanted to tell you that I completely agreed with your review, which was a smooth, eloquent read.


Neta I felt exactly the same as you about Illuminated, then Loud/Close, and finally this book.


Nancy Barton I read this book twice, finding something new each time.


Melissa Ricks Now I know why, while reading History of Love, I was constantly thinking of EL&IC.


message 9: by Lua (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lua Very good review.


message 10: by Lua (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lua Very good review.


message 11: by Iva (new) - rated it 3 stars

Iva Gotta say, your review almost exactly matches my feelings toward this book. Best summarized by the phrase "messy pastiche". Thank you! :)


Patrick Lipski I've never read EL&IC but I loved this book. She's a great writer, and the ending especially touched me. Not many writers can do that.


Kristi Sawyer I'm glad I am not the only one who didn't think everything tied together as well as it should have!


message 14: by Kate (new) - rated it 1 star

Kate Wood thank you for writing this review. it is hard reading something, liking so much of the writing and then feeling like it was a huge let down. the format, head hopping and blatant ambiguity felt like it was working against the reader, instead of adding to the potential beauty of the story.


message 15: by Bart (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bart Henry Just finished and agree wholeheartedly about the very disappointing ending. Seriously?


message 16: by Edna (new) - rated it 1 star

Edna I had a jigsaw puzzle in my brain. I had to quit.


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