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Confusing,
Interesting,
Beautiful

20 reviews

The History of Love: A Novel
by Nicole Krauss

Published: 2006-05-17
Kindle Edition : 272 pages
62 members reading this now
97 clubs reading this now
42 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 14 of 20 members

ONE OF THE MOST LOVED NOVELS OF THE DECADE.



A long-lost book reappears, mysteriously connecting an old man searching for his son and a girl seeking a cure for her widowed mother's loneliness.


Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But ...
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Introduction

ONE OF THE MOST LOVED NOVELS OF THE DECADE.



A long-lost book reappears, mysteriously connecting an old man searching for his son and a girl seeking a cure for her widowed mother's loneliness.


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 family. With virtuosic skill and soaring imaginative power, Nicole Krauss gradually draws these stories together toward a climax of "extraordinary depth and beauty" (Newsday).

Editorial Review

Nicole Krauss's The History of Love is a hauntingly beautiful novel about two characters whose lives are woven together in such complex ways that even after the last page is turned, the reader is left to wonder what really happened. In the hands of a less gifted writer, unraveling this tangled web could easily give way to complete chaos. However, under Krauss's watchful eye, these twists and turns only strengthen the impact of this enchanting book.

The History of Love spans of period of over 60 years and takes readers from Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe to present day Brighton Beach. At the center of each main character's psyche is the issue of loneliness, and the need to fill a void left empty by lost love. Leo Gursky is a retired locksmith who immigrates to New York after escaping SS officers in his native Poland, only to spend the last stage of his life terrified that no one will notice when he dies. ("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.") Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer vacillates between wanting to memorialize her dead father and finding a way to lift her mother's veil of depression. At the same time, she's trying to save her brother Bird, who is convinced he may be the Messiah, from becoming a 10-year-old social pariah. As the connection between Leo and Alma is slowly unmasked, the desperation, along with the potential for salvation, of this unique pair is also revealed.

The poetry of her prose, along with an uncanny ability to embody two completely original characters, is what makes Krauss an expert at her craft. But in the end, it's the absolute belief in the uninteruption of love that makes this novel a pleasure, and a wonder to behold. --Gisele Toueg

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

Discussion questions from the publisher's reading guide:

1. Leo Gursky and Alma Singer make an unlikely pair, but what they share in common ultimately brings them together. What are the similarities between these two characters?

2. Leo fears becoming invisible. How does fiction writing prove a balm for his anxiety?

3. Explore the theme of authenticity throughout the narrative. Who's real and who's a fraud?

4. Despite his preoccupation with his approaching death, Leo has a spirit that is indefatigably comic. Describe the interplay of tragedy and comedy in The History of Love.

5. What distinguishes parental love from romantic love in the novel?

6. Why is it so important to Alma that Bird act normal? How normal is Alma?

7. When Alma meets Leo, she calls him the "oldest man in the world." Does his voice sound so ancient?

8. Uncle Julian tells Alma, "Wittgenstein once wrote that when the eye sees something beautiful, the hand wants to draw it." How does this philosophical take on the artistic process relate to the impulse to write in The History of Love?

9. Many different narrators contribute to the story of The History of Love. What makes each of their voices unique? How does Krauss seam them together to make a coherent novel?

10. Survival requires different tactics in different environments. Aside from Alma's wilderness guidelines, what measures do the characters in the novel adopt to carry on?

11. Most all of the characters in the novel are writers–from Isaac Moritz to Bird Singer. Alma's mother is somewhat exceptional, as she works as a translator. Yet she is not the only character to transform others' words for her creative practice. What are the similarities and differences between an author and a translator?

12. What are the benefits of friendship in the novel? Why might Alma feel more comfortable remaining Misha's friend rather than becoming his girlfriend?

13. The fame and adulation Isaac Moritz earns for his novels represent the rewards many writers hope for, while Leo, an unwitting ghostwriter, remains unrecognized for his work. What role does validation play in the many acts of writing in The History of Love?

14. Leo decides to model nude for an art class in order to leave an imprint of his existence. He writes to preserve the memories of his love for Alma Mereminski. Yet drawings and novels are never faithful renditions of the truth. Do you recognize a process of erasure in the stories he tells us?

15. Why might Krauss have given her novel the title The History of Love, the same as that of the fictional book around which her narrative centers?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by lollygil (see profile) 04/17/19

 
  "Brilliant and Baffling"by [email protected] (see profile) 02/16/17

This book was brilliant. Krauss' writing skills are beyond reproach. Her words are carefully chosen and her sentences are beautifully crafted. That said, I have to tell you our group found her novel... (read more)

 
by JaNae (see profile) 05/26/16

 
by dbjohnson (see profile) 06/21/15

 
  "it made me smile"by chlene36 (see profile) 11/13/14

I enjoyed the characters, and the ending

 
by PECHEMAN (see profile) 08/21/14

 
  "History of Love"by torkkol (see profile) 06/11/14

My group enjoyed discussing this book. It is the first book we've spent more than 20 minutes on before plunging into personal lives and snacks! But it is a complicated read. It's a re-read. It's a love... (read more)

 
  "A good discussion book, even if not a new favorite"by wbjolly (see profile) 03/28/12

Our book club unanimously enjoyed this book. We all agreed it was confusing at times and we had trouble keeping track of some of the characters at the middle of the book. However, everyone loved the... (read more)

 
  "The History of Love"by marcid (see profile) 03/22/12

I am sure there is a lot here for discussion but this was just not my type of book.
I found it difficult to transition between the story line of the different characters when the
narrator

... (read more)

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