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 they wrote their books together oh, how a dorable , bouncing ideas off one another and giving each other high fives, so naturally I assumed that if Mr Foer s book was gimmicky which it is , then The History of Love would surely be a major eye roller as well, right Wrong.Whatever the reason, I was clearly out of line, and for that I owe Nicole a huge apology In this book she weaves three intersecting storylines all under a cloud of intriguing ambiguity, so even though it is understood that the stories are related, it isn t exactly clear how until about two thirds of the way through And as the stories of Leopold Gursky, Alma Singer, and Zvi Litvinoff are told to us, they leave an imprint on us even before we learn for sure who they are The History of Love is a gorgeous novel with gorgeous characters who do what characters do best they love and they lose, they struggle and they fail, and if lucky they learn how to pick up the pieces and survive For them, survival is not a destination but a journey There s no magic cure and there s no end all But taken one day at a time, it is possible to live a life worth living Krauss reminds us that all we really want is to remain visible to be known, to be loved, and to be remembered by those who knew and loved us.I won a copy of this book through World Book Night, a program begun in the UK last year to spread the love of reading That program has now arrived in the US, and even though I technically shouldn t have qualified for receiving a copy of this WBN books are supposed to have been given only to light readers in the hopes that they become moderate readers I will make sure that it will have been worth their while by spreading my love for this book about a book about love. An Alternative Cover Edition For This ISBN Can Be Found HereFourteen Year Old Alma Singer Is Trying To Find A Cure For Her Mother S Loneliness Believing 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 Called Leo Gursky Is Trying To Survive A Little Bit Longer He Spends His Days Dreaming Of The Lost Love Who, Sixty Years Ago In Poland, 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 The great tragedy of life is this then, our friends are not allowed to finish their stories My second reading of this book bore out my feeling the first time I read it The first two hundred pages are a stunningly beautiful and moving account of love and loss and the stories hidden within stories and then, of a sudden, it s as if Krauss handed the novel over to her distinctly less talented husband to finish off the book She ruins it with the fourth of her narrators, the entirely preposterous whimsy of Bird who is a kind of identikit of Foer s equally irritating cutesy cutesy little boy narrator in Extremely Loud Bird is a mistake and the attempt to add stillmadcap tomfoolery and another search for a missing person, a person who doesn t exist, is just daft Bird as a character is a joke that simply isn t funny And to make another mystery of a mystery, to create another story with the honeycomb of stories, backfires horribly so late in the novel I don t think I ve ever read a novel that punctures so catastrophically towards the end and has left me feeling so angry and cheated I d forgotten how beautiful most of this novel is How poignantly and succinctly Krauss conveys the childhood love of two Jewish children before the Nazis arrive How magically she recreates Leo s memory And how alive and full of the heart is the old man recollecting himself as a boy in the narrative Leo is a brilliant and heartwarming depiction of old age just as Alma is a fabulous evocation of adolescence Krauss writes brilliantly about love, in all of its forms She s got a marvellous eye for epiphanies and evokes them with searing poetic simplicity And the multi layered form of the novel where three narrators are each telling missing parts of each other s stories is brilliantly achieved It also works great as a literary detective story Almost you have to keep a list of the clues as you re reading So, absolutely brilliant until Krauss ultimate recourse to whimsy, as if she and her husband were sharing some private joke, and which comes very close to spoiling the poignant moving emotional fabric of this novel. Original Comments Pre Review I would like to review this novelformally 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 Youtube and she s also someone who I enjoy listening to when she speaks about her craft and her choice of subject matter.This probably sounds very gushy and naive, but I promise to write somethingconsidered.Review September 26, 2011 Warning about SpoilersI have tried to minimise and identify plot spoilers.However, this is an emotional response to the novel, and might reveal significance that you might want to enjoy by way of your own detection.I hope that my review doesn t spoil anything for you, or if it does, that you quickly forget it.Lives Lived and Measured by the Deli CounterNicole Krauss The History of Love is one of my favourite novels of all time.I read it once pre Good Reads, and have just re read it, so that I could review it And I will read it again Often.That doesn t count the numerous times I have fingered through the book seeking out passages and expressions and meanings and significances that stimulated or appealed to me.It s an exquisitely crafted tale of love, loss, longing, hope, defiance, resilience and, it has to be said, delusion.I love its Jewish wisdom and concern with the family, I love its Yiddish rhythms and expressions and humour and playfulness, I love the window it offers into the millennia of Jewish culture and enrichment of the world.When I open the pages of this book, I feel like I am walking into the best delicatessen or pastry shop in the world.Everything is there on display, everything is on offer we can eat in or take away.It s all been made with consummate skill and affection, it s designed to satiate our appetite, to enrich our lives.I look at it all, knowing it will feed us, it will sustain us, it will revive our energy It s food for thought, it s food for life.I m sure it will help us live our own lives and tell our own tales, it will equip each of us to tell our own History of Love.I am wearing my Second Avenue Deli t shirt as I think and type this.Legend The History of Love is written from four different perspectives, each of which is represented by a different symbol at the beginning of the chapter Leo Gursky a heartAlma Singer a compassOmniscient Narrator an open bookBird Alma s brother an arkOnce Upon a TimeOnce upon a time, there was a Polish boy named Leo Gursky who loved a girl across the field named Alma MereminskiHer laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.He asked her to marry him when they were both still only tenHe promised her he would never love another girl as long as he lived What if I die She asked Even then, he said He carved A L in the bark of a tree and had someone take a photo of the two of them in front of that tree He writes three books for her, all in their native Yiddish, the last being The History of Love.Book 1 this one was about Slonim Alma says,she liked it better when I made things upBook 2 he made up everything for this one Alma says,maybe I shouldn t make up everything, because that made it hard to believe anythingBook 3 The History of Love Leo says,I didn t write about real things and I didn t write about imaginary things I wrote about the only things I knewIn July, 1941, that boy, who was now a man of 21, avoided murder by the German Einsatzgruppen, because he was lying on his back in the woods thinking about the girlYou could say it was his love for her that saved his life Alma s father had already saved her by sending her to America.Unbeknown to either of them, Alma was pregnant with their son, Isaac, when she left.Oblivious to the birth of his son, Leo lives in hiding surrounded by Nazi atrocities.Letters back and forth fail to reach their destination.He even writes his own obituary, when he is in the depths of illness and despair.By the time Leo finally escapes to New York himself, five years later, he has become an invisible man in the face of death.He traces Alma, only to learn that she has had their child and that, believing he was dead, she has married another man.He is ecstatic that our sum had come to equal a child A L I.He asks her once to come with me , she can t and he does the hardest thing he s ever done in his life he picked up his hat and walked away.He has little involvement with Alma or Isaac after that, except as an occasional remote observer.And yet He continues to love Alma, though he now has another quest to determine whether Isaac, who becomes a famous writer in his own right, ever knew about his father and that he wrote The History of Love.Once Upon Another TimelineOnce upon another time it is the year 2000 when Leo is 80 and believes he is approaching death , a precocious 15 year old girl goes by the name Alma Singer.Her mother, Charlotte, a literary translator who specialises in Spanish literature, named her after every girl in a book Alma s father David gave her mother called The History of Love.It is written in Spanish, and the author is Zvi Litvinoff, a friend of Leo s who, after Leo left Poland, escaped to Chile, carrying with him the original Yiddish manuscript of The History of Love for safekeeping.Alma s father died when she was seven.Like Leo, Charlotte has continued to love himmy mother never fell out of love with my fatherand has never felt the need or desire to love another man.When Charlotte disposes of some of his possessions, Alma rescues an old sweater and decides to wear it for the rest of her life.She manages to wear it for 42 days straight.Alma is on her own quest to know her own father better, to help her younger brother Bird to know him too, to find a lover for her mother and to learnabout her namesake in The History of Love.In the midst of this assortment of delicacies, Charlotte receives a letter asking her to translate The History of Love from Spanish to English.Family PlotI have included the above plot details, despite my normal reluctance to summarise plots in reviews.Please don t construe any of the details as spoilers Most of them are revealed in the first forty pages, only not necessarily in that order.And I have left out a lot of the back story, so that I could set up this context, that family is fundamental to the plot, to The History of Love , not to mention history itself.The Paleontological DetectiveEvery crime needs its own detective and every detective needs their own methodology, even a child detective.Nicole Krauss twice mentions the task of paleontologistsBird asked what a paleontologist was and Mom said that if he took a complete, illustrated guide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, shred it into a hundred pieces, cast them into the wind from the museum s steps, let a few weeks pass, went back and scoured Fifth Avenue and Central Park for as many surviving scraps as he could find, then tried to reconstruct the history of painting, including schools, styles, genres, and names of painters from his scraps, that would be like a paleontologist The only difference is that paleontologists study fossils in order to figure out the origin and evolution of life Every fourteen year old should know something about where she comes from, my mother said It wouldn t do to go around without the faintest clue of how it all began Here, the historical quest, the puzzle depends on your perspective And there are two, the young and the old, the present and the past joining together to construct the future.For Alma, the young, the puzzle is what happened before The History of Love found its way into her family For Leo, the old, it is what happened after he wrote The History of Love Both have to sit down, sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently, and work their own methodical way towards a solution of their own puzzle.In a way, their problem is the same the problem of family.Leo loses a prospective wife and a son, Charlotte loses a husband, Alma loses a father.They have all lost the story of their family, of their love.Here, the novel is symbolic of the fate of the Jewish Family in the face of the Holocaust and the Jewish Diaspora.The Jewish Family has been dispersed all over the world, family members have been separated, the spine of their love and connections and cultures and books and stories has been severed.Their book has been shred into a hundred pieces and cast into the wind.Somebody has to scour the world, to find the surviving scraps , piece it all together again and reconstruct their history and their culture.And it will take a paleontologist Or two.You Can Only Lose What You Once HadLeo once had Alma He had a lover whom he loved and who loved him.He lost her, but he kept his love alive, just as he hoped that the object of his love was still alive she actually lived until 1995.The novel is almost mythical or mythological in the way it tells this tale.Charlotte tells young AlmaThe first woman may have been Eve, but the first girl will always be Alma So Leo and Alma are almost posited against Adam and Eve as the first boy and girl, the first to have mortal parents, the first children who ever fell in love with each other, the first to create a new family.Without the object of his love, he wrote about it.He kept his love alive, his love kept him alive.As he wrote in his own obituary,He was a great writer He fell in love It was his life And yet His life stalled when he lost the object of his love.He ceased to live for any purpose other than the preservation of his love.His love became a fabrication that substituted for and subsumed his life.He appears to be in two minds about this On the one hand, whatto life is there but loveI thought we were fighting for somethingthan her love, he said.What isthan her love I asked On the other hand, he recognised that he needed his invention in order to survive, that reality would have killed himWhat do I want to tell you The truth What is the truth That I mistook your mother for my life No Isaac, I said The truth is the thing I invented so I could live And again, his confrontation of the truthThe truth is that she told me that she couldn t love me When she said goodbye, she was saying goodbye forever And yet I made myself forget I don t know why I keep asking myself But I did AndAnd now at the end of my life, I can barely tell the difference between what is real and what I believe Perhaps, the truth is whatever works for you My Friend Bruno Leo constantly refers to his friend Bruno.I have only one head, but I am in two minds as to whether he is real or make believe.He might be a self generated survival tool.He is modelled on Bruno Schulz, the Polish author of The Street of Crocodiles , which is referred to a number of times in the novel.He died in 1942, and Leo even mentions that he died in 1941 in the novel.He attempts suicide in the novel, unsuccessfully, so there might be a sense in which he is a darker twin of Leo, who nevertheless manages to prolong his life in the same way Zvi Litvinoff manages to prolong his life by confiscating and caring for Leo s obituary when he seemed like he was about to die.His role diminishes as Leo embraces reality over the course of the novel And Yet And yetAnd yet These two words are so important to the novel.They express Leo s defiance, his determination not to accept the hand dealt to him, his determination to avoid and evade the evil and the crime and the misfortune around him.It is his imagination, his ability to believe in something else that allows him to achieve thisI remember the time I first realised I could make myself see something that wasn t there And then I turned the corner and saw it A huge elephant, standing alone in the square I knew I was imagining it And yet I wanted to believe So I tried And I found I could He has to imagine a better world than the one he has inherited or the one that his world has become.It was his love that enabled him to stop thinking and worrying about death, to stop worrying about the inevitability of his fate.To this extent, love is what keeps us alive, it is our heartbeat, it is the reason our heart beats even if occasionally it causes our heart to skip a beat.Love is the defiance of death.It s not just something we do while waiting to die, it s something that keeps us alive.It keeps individuals alive, it keeps families alive, it keeps cultures alive and it keeps communities alive.Putting Your Legacy into WordsThe great tragedy within Leo s life after Alma is that he believes his greatest creation, The History of Love , has been lost.In fact, it has been misappropriated, albeit without ill will.Again, I don t mean this to be a spoiler We, the readers, already know that it must exist in some form, if Alma s family can read it and Charlotte can be asked to translate it from Spanish to English.Obviously, part of the resolution of the puzzle for Leo must be the recovery of his legacy.It is one of the things that will bond him with the family he had but wasn t really able to have.The other thing we find out at the beginning of the novel is that Leo has had a heart attack that has killed one quarter of his heart.This reinvigorates his fear of death and the concern that he might die an invisible man, survived only by an apartment full of shit.And yet, it also reinvigorates his creativity which had stalled as well.Within months, he starts to write again, 57 years after he had previously stopped possibly when he had finished The History of Love and had become an invisible man during the War.What he writes ends up being 301 pages long, it s not nothing.It s his memoir, starting off once upon a time , in the manner of a fable or a fairy tale, which he almost calls Laughing and Crying and Writing and Waiting , but ends up naming Words for Everything.It s a polite, but defiant, retort to Alma s childhood challenge, When will you learn that there isn t a word for everything Maybe there isn t a word for everything, but as The History of Love itself illustrates, in the hands of the right person, it is possible to say everything in words.Leo sends the novel off to the address he finds for Isaac, in the hope that he will read it, only to read soon after that his only child has died view spoiler And yetwhat Leo accomplishes over the course of the novel is the knowledge that his son had learned the truth of their family by reading Words for Everything and that the true authorship of The History of Love had finally become known.His legacy has become concrete, and he can die content hide spoiler 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. One of the last books I read in 2017 was Virginia Woolf s A Room of One Own In this series of essays, Woolf maintains that if a woman has a room of her own in which to write, then she isthan capable of producing the same if not greater works than men While pondering my 2018 classics bingo and what book to use as a free square, my thoughts turned to Nicole Krauss I finally discovered Krauss last year, having read both Great House and Forest Dark The prose in both novels was superb, leading literary critics to dub Krauss as one of the greatest Jewish writers since Kafka Krauss has a desk of her own in which to write, discussing it at length in Great House I decided it would be appropriate to use my bingo free square for her History of Love, another of her novels that weaves together multiple plot lines in Kafka like fashion Leopold Gursky is approaching the age of his death As he nears his final hour, he can not help but reminisce about his childhood home in Slonim near Minsk and his boyhood friends Bruno Schulz real life author of Streets of Crocodiles and Zvi Litvinoff All three men decided upon careers in writing in their youth before the Nazis invaded Poland and shattered their dreams Before Jewish life in Slonim ended, young Leopold Gursky fell in love with Alma Mereminski With a name meaning soul and a body strikingly beautiful, Gursky decided at age ten that Mereminski would be the one true love of his life, even carving their initials into a special tree The young lovebirds knew that their love was something special however, the Nazis posed an even greater threat, and the Mereminski family fled to New York in 1941, not before Alma became pregnant with Leo s child something neither was aware of Hiding in the forest for the duration of the war, Leo reached New York years later and learned about his son s existence Named Isaac after a great Jewish Russian writer, the boy would go on to become a prolific writer in his own right yet pain Leo for the rest of his life Prior to going into hiding, Leo had written a manuscript that was close to his heart entitled The History of Love He entrusted Zvi Litvinoff with this book for safekeeping, knowing that Litvinoff was fortunate enough to be leaving for the safety of Chile Little did Gursky know that years later Litvinoff would change the language from Yiddish to Spanish and pass off this eloquent book as his own Years later, fourteen year old Alma Singer, named for the protagonist in History of Love, stumbles across a letter from one Jacob Marcus who is asking Alma s mother Charlotte to translate the book from Spanish to English The Singer family has been grieving over the death of their husband father Daniel for the last seven years, and Alma believes that translating this book would make her mother happy again As she discovers discarded translations in the trash, Alma undergoes a personal quest to discover who her namesake was and why this protagonist named Alma profoundly moved her father to gift his copy of The History of Love to her mother In this process of self discovery, Alma unearths many answers as well as questions about both her father, her namesake, and their past In true Krauss fashion, she weaves together these three plot lines without either protagonist knowing of each other s existence Gursky lives inside his memories hoping for one chance meeting with his son, who has know idea who his real father is Alma is also searching for Alma Mereminski or someone who can provide clues as to who she was Encouraged by her uncle to stop constantly grieving for her father, she is urged to step outside of her comfort zone of writing and books As she matures, Alma learns clues about the History of Love, her father, and herself Meanwhile, Krauss intersperses the sections about Gursky and Singer with the story of Litvinoff s life in Chile and how History of Love came to be All three stories are moving and eventually come to a nexus toward the novel s denouement As with Nicole Krauss two other novels that I have read, in History of Love I experienced mature literary fiction which had a profound impact on me I think I was moved the most by this novel because I have a daughter named Alma and I was touched by the protagonist Alma s capacity to love amidst her grieving This added personal twist seems to be a page out of Krauss mature style of writing that I have come to love and look forward to She has certainly done well given a room of her own in which to write, and has become a leading contemporary literary fiction author Having caught up with her novels, I happily anticipate the day she publishes her next novel, whenever that may be 5 stars 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 occasionally think there are some books that are just built on a clever concept and become better theyou sit and think about what you ve just read.In my opinion, The History of Love is one of those books.For one thing, this novel is something of a work of art The graphic design even of the dedications page feels important to the novel without seeming overly gimmicky I ve actually always loved the concept of a book within a book when a book, which forms part of the plot, also ties in with the physical book in your hands or ebook, perhaps In this case, the story features a book entitled you guessed it The History of Love, which carries an obituary at the end identical to the one at the end of this book The real message behind the story is that by writing about things and stories, people who are dead and experiences that are long past are given the opportunity to live on through words The fictional The History of Love in the story stays alive across time and continents because people read it and keep the memories alive The implication with the ending of this book is that Krauss is doing the same and encouraging readers to keep Leo and his story alive.Another thing I love is having very different stories that run parallel to one another and intersect in ways you wouldn t imagine I like the exploration of how small, subtle things can shape people s lives and how one unsuccessful author can have such a huge effect on the life of someone they never met I guess in some ways it did make me feel quite emotional, but it took some thinking about first.I found Leo Gursky to be exactly the kind of character who evokes sympathy from me, but especially within this kind of context We are introduced to him as an aging and extremely lonely man who is preoccupied with his own mortality and impending death Once upon a time, Leo lived in Poland, fell in love with a woman called Alma, and wrote her a book he called The History of Love which he believes was lost in a flood But with fascism on the rise in Germany, however, Alma s father sends her to the United States where she builds a new life that Leo isn t a part of.When Leo finally makes it to the USA, he has no place in Alma s life and must forge a new lonely existence in a strange country Meanwhile, another story is taking place somewhere completely different A teenage girl called Alma was named after the character in The History of Love her parents favourite book that was, in fact, published and she is currently trying to deal with the death of her father In yet another parallel story, Zvi Litvinoff is the man who stole and published Leo s manuscript and now feels a terrible guilt for doing so All these lives move alongside one another, rarely actually touching, but making waves for the others all the same.For me, the real message here is about the power of words and stories How they can shape lives and have long term effects that most of us don t recognise as they re affecting us It s about the power that lies in being able to tell your story and having it be heard It took me a while to compile my thoughts, but I highly recommend this book for those looking for a thought provoking little read.Blog Leafmarks Facebook Twitter Instagram Tumblr All I want is not to die on a day when I went unseen Leopold Gursky, Holocaust survivor, is a lonely old man who dreams of his long lost love Alma Mereminski and survives each day with the desire to just be noticed by someone He has one single soul he can call a friend in this world, Bruno, his old faithful Alma Singer is a fourteen year old girl who lost her father and whose heart aches for the mother that can barely get out of bed and make it to the next dayMy mother is lonely even when we re around herAlma and her brother, Bird, have each other, but Alma needs her mother to be happy and live in this world once again, not simply by getting by with just her memories Then comes the day when Alma s mother is asked to translate a book called The History of Love the very same book that Alma s father gave to her mother all those years ago and the one that provided the inspiration behind Alma s own name Alma begins a quest to find a partner for her mother and becomes involved in researching the background of this book We also meet Zvi Litvinoff, a Polish refugee living in South America Litvinoff, too, suffers from his own private sorrow and grief, but is the fortunate recipient of loyalty and love from a woman named Rosa Litvinoff has achieved some fame in his life with the publication of his book, The History of Love There it is again, that book The History of Love I thought this book was brilliantly written There is a puzzle to solve here and we are only given snippets of the answers a little at a time I must say that you have to be ready to devote your full attention to this book so choose a time when you can do just that I am very glad I read this after the holiday season otherwise I admit that I may have gotten lost through the intricate weaving of the threads of this story However, if you can devote your time and truly focus, the payoff is well worth it Krauss s novel exudes such a feeling of loneliness and loss My heart ached for Leo Gursky and young Alma Singer There are moments of humor, however, when Leo exerts such efforts to get himself noticed One scene had me laughing to myself and I won t soon get that one out of my head Of course, love is a central theme in this book love for a soul mate, love for a mother, love for a son, love for a father, and love for the friend that helps you get through each day The writing is exquisite and often quite lyrical After reading this, it struck me that one cannot simply survive on memories alone, no matter how precious those memories may be Trying to sustain oneself with the past keeps us from really living in the present I will not soon forget The History of LoveCrossing the street, I was hit head on by a brutal loneliness I felt dark and hollow Abandoned, unnoticed, forgotten, I stood on the sidewalk, a nothing, a gatherer of dust People hurried past me And everyone who walked by was happier than I I felt the old envy I would have given anything to be one of them Leo is the obvious charmer of this novel, an elderly man who escapes the Nazis as a boy and eventually follows the love of his life to America where he discovers she has married someone else Leo holds the torch for Alma throughout his long life He has also written a novel, The History of Love, the manuscript of which he entrusted to a friend and believes forever lost His novel is the holy spirit of this novel Every character is profoundly affected by it Leo didn t quite charm me as much as Krauss wanted I found some of the humour too slapstick It was Alma who won me over Alma is the second narrator She is named after the heroine of Leo s book which her father loved Except the book isn t credited as being authored by Leo and it was published in Chile in Spanish The first mystery in a succession surrounding this book Her father is dead when the narrative begins Alma is a brilliant humorous portrait of an adolescent girl who has lost her father and is dealing with a grief stricken mother and a traumatised younger brother Her mother is a translator and is excited when she is commissioned to translate The History of Love into English All the characters live obsessively in the past It s a novel about lost edens, about coming to terms with the present when the past isinspiring,magical But because of its humour and vitality Krauss does a fabulous job of making the present a constant cause for celebration It s one of those novels that, despite its fabulous labyrinthine structure and fresh lively prose, relies very heavily on its charm It s up there with A Gentleman in Moscow as the most charming novel I ve ever read Krauss probably overeggs the mystery within a mystery or book within a book motif, especially towards the end when she drafts in Alma s brother to contribute some barmy detective work But ultimately a lovely heartwarming novel written with fizzing joie de vivre about the joys, sorrows and compensations of love. 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 answeringI found this quote from a listicle please don t judge me of 50 of the most beautiful sentences in literature This one particular sentence left me with a heaping serving of the feels and so without a second thought, I chucked the book I was reading at that time and started reading The History of Love A few chapters later, I realized that this was not the sappy romantic book I was hoping for The story isheart breaking, in a way I m quite happy to be proven wrong, though Sad as it may be, the prose could take your breath away I discovered another work of art,beautiful than that one sentence that lead me to it The History of Love is not really much of a history at all It slike a meditation on love, or an exploration of love It s the story of a bunch of people who are not only searching for love, but also searching for themselves, and trying to find their places in the world Once the characters lives intertwine, the ending introduces questions of fate, destiny, and the things that connect us to each other and to the universe More than that, though, the ending reaffirms the power of love no, not the sappy 80 s song It sustains through the years and unites people across decades, miles, and circumstances In the end, even though it isn t the romance I was hoping to read, I still came away feeling pretty darn good about love and love stories How is it that even the people who have suffered the most from having fallen in love still remember it as the most precious thing in the universe How do the folks who have not yet experienced it know it when they see it And what in the world would be in the pages of the actual history of love I don t think one volume would cut it The book, unfortunately, doesn t give simple answers but, of course, love is nothing if not complicated.