Author: Nicole Krauss
Recommendation: Go for it.
Summary: Leo Gursky is an old man, living alone, and taking every opportunity to let the world know that he's still there. Alma Singer is a teenager whose father passed away and whose family has been coping with the loss. On the first glance there is nothing to tie the two narrators of this book together except for one obscure book named The History of Love.
Reactions: The History of Love was strongly recommended to me by Chad. The majority of my reading is speculative fiction, but this foray into literary fiction was unexpectedly fluid and enjoyable. Krauss's writing style is top notch and the book simply flew by. To give you an idea for the style, I liked the following quote:
Then she kissed him. Her kiss was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.The story, as one may guess from the title, heavily revolves around various relationships of the characters. Leo's loss of his family and the girl he loved. Alma's loss of her father and her relationships with her remaining family and boys. They are all different, but at the same time connected, and I thought the author did a great job giving depth to the characters and the relationships both.
The aspect of the book that I enjoyed the most and the least at the same time was the plot of the book. The story is revealed through first person narration -- mostly by Leo Gursky and Alma Singer with parts of the history filled in by a 3rd person narrative. At first we meet the characters and most things make sense, but by the middle of the book we start to grasp that something strange is happening and the story is more involved and connected than we expected at first. I will admit to feeling confused as to the connection between the stories by mid-point with the confusion only mounting towards the end of the novel. And throughout we get a series of twists in the plot, some points becoming clear and connections coming out in unexpected ways. The final twist at the very end of the book took me aback though.
In one sense, I love the twists and the revelations that the book brings. On the other hand, the final twist put a number of scenes earlier in the book in question and in some ways didn't really make sense to me when looking at various pertaining details earlier in the story. Hence my opinion on the plot is a little mixed, but I do applaud the author for the audacity of writing something this complex and mostly pulling it off.
There were also some small details in the book, they may seem insignificant, but I really liked them. For example, Alma reads and thinks about extinction ages on earth, which is something I also just read about in A Short History of Nearly Everything and I like having that sort of connection to a character. There were some other moments like these dealing with locations or events that made me like the book better.
Altogether it was a really enjoyable book, despite my general sense of confusion about the events. I will definitely be looking at other books by Nicole Krauss.