“Isabelle S said: 3 stars
This is a poignant story of lost love. Leo Gursky grew up in Poland. Alma, the woman Leo loved from boyhood, escaped to America just before the Nazis invaded. Missing her, Leo penned a book about their young passion called The History of Love. He survived the war in hiding, and when he finally managed to follow Alma he found that life was not going to turn out as he had expected.
A little more than half a century later, fourteen year old Alma Singer has problems beyond her years. Her father is dead, her brother believes he is one of the 36 lamed vovniks, her mother barely leaves her room. Alma herself is obsessed with survival skills. When her mother is asked by the mysterious Jacob Marcus to translate The History of Love, Alma becomes convinced that this is the man who could help her mother back to life.
It all sounds wonderfully intriguing. And yet.
Leo is a marvelous character, but occasionally he'll come out with thoughts like this:
The soft down of your white hair playing about your scalp like a half blown dandelion. Many times, Bruno, I have been tempted to blow on your head and make a wish.
Sweet, but a little too much feminine sensibilty to be an 80-something guy talking. He's more realistic in his fixation with issues arising from his constant constipation.
Alma was the most believable character, with her 14 year old logic that assumed every man in existence must be her mother's age, even after being proven wrong more than once. But her brother, Bird, was too self-consciously quirky for me and I don't understand what he was supposed to add to the narrative. I do understand what Zvi Litvinoff was supposed to add to the narrative, but didn't see why he had to do it at such length.
It's not a bad book - there are frequent lovely passages and turns of phrase. And yet. By the end I was reading it as a string of lovely passages, not a narrative about characters I cared about.
Sleekfeline said: 3 stars
The History of Love was an intriguing novel. It follows the stories of two people....
First, an old man who's just waiting to die. He acts out just to get noticed (like dropping coins in line at a crowded supermarket), on the off chance that if he dies then, someone would have noticed him. He's an immigrant from Poland and has been through many hardships, but the one that plagues him the most is the loss of a love many years ago.
Second, we follow Alma, a young girl who is determined to find a man for her Mom, who is still in mourning over losing her husband. She takes refuge in her books and has turned into a hermit who stays home all the time. Alma decides to track down the author of the book "A History of Love". It's a book that holds great significance for her mother, as it's a book that was given to her by Alma's father.
It was a pleasure to see how the two...seemingly seperate stories...cross paths.
Book Concierge said: 4****
“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.”
Leo Gursky escaped the SS in Poland, dreaming of the day he’d go across the Atlantic and find the love of his life, Alma, so they could start their life together. Now he lives alone, afraid no one will notice when he dies. 15-year-old Alma Singer was named for “all the female characters in the book” The History of Love – an obscure volume her father gave her mother. But her father died a few years ago, and her mother has been sad ever since, while her brother seems lost in a fantasy that he is the Messiah. What connects these disparate characters is their loneliness, and their search for love.
The novel is also a paean to the written word, in the form of a book – a medium that survives the Holocaust, a transatlantic journey, a flood, plagiarism, fire and international translations to touch men and women, of three different generations, on three continents.
The chapters are narrated in turn by the various characters. I fell in love with Leo Gursky and his chapters are the best, in my opinion. Alma’s chapters are written in a style that is so different that it is jarring, and as a result I felt the plot slowed – too much in my opinion. Still, Krauss can craft a sentence that stays with you; she weaves a rich tapestry, revealing her character’s pain and joy, and arriving at a poignant conclusion that is simply poetic.
Barbara M[./b] said: 5 stars and a heart
This is a book about a book of the same title. That's not the only confusion that this novel started out with; the switch in narrator is very difficult to get used to. Stick with it because this is just great. The reader gets caught up in the mystery of who wrote the book, who is Alma Mereminski and, in fact, how many of the characters are who they appear to be. I was nearly half-way into the book before I realized that the icon in the upper corner (hardly noticeable) actually indicated who the narrator was for this section. This book is very artistic in many ways; the physical layout, the writing, the themes. The characters are terrific and will stay with me. There are plenty of beautiful phrases and quotes. When Leo is the narrator, you can count on "And yet." or "But." each as single sentences.
There are some places where the stories intersect: Leo times his lock-picking (he is a retired locksmith) and Alma Singer times how quickly she can set up her father's tent. In one chapter Leo asks "When did Isaac get taller than me" in the next few pages Alma's mother asks her "How did you get so tall?" It is heartbreaking when Leo goes through his adult son's house where each item is so important. As slow as the start of the story was, as I got closer to the end, the story sped by and ended with a lump in my throat. Totally unexpected, totally beautiful.
kolibri said: 4 stars
This was my second attempt of reading something by Krauss and like it. I already read Great House and never could really plunge into the story. It was the same with this book. I took me like forever to get into it.
Alma's mother is sad because after the death of Alma's dad she is lonely. Alma wants to make her happy again and tries to set her up with man. Unexpectedly Alma's mother is asked to translate a book because that is her job. But the History of Love is the book that was the first present of her late husband to her and Alma is named after the main character in this book.
Leo Gursky on the other hand is lonely, too. He is a Polish immigrant and came to America full of hopes to reconnect with his former love who due to second world war left Poland for America. Now he is old and couldn't get together with the woman he loved but has a son he longs to get to know.
Zvi Litvinoff is an author and his best known piece of work is The History of Love. But he has a secret too.
It was hard for me because I didn't like how I couldn't connect the three different story lines at first. I liked reading about Alma the best and felt for Leo. Other than that I couldn't figure it out. Until near the end I suddenly could and right then I happened to like what I read and appreciate Krauss' prose. As soon as it made sense I liked it. Really. I pondered reading from the beginning to see what hints were given early on but somehow I couldn't make me.
I wonder if everybody was clueless like me about the book until near the end...”