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A Book Review: The History of Love

Author: Nicole Krauss

Total Pages: 252

Published: 2005


I really wanted to get lost in this book. Unfortunately I didn’t. I don’t even know how long it took me to almost finish but I would say about 3-4 months?

Now listen, I read some great reviews on this book which is why I purchased it off amazon. I tried to push through, I had about 70 pages left, I was so close but I have two books in line that I really want to read and so why waste time on a book that doesn’t bring you joy? Life is too short is what I say.

Back Cover Summary:

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 the 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).

When I read this and how long did it take:

It took me a long time to get as far as I did. I even had a dry spell towards the latter half. I was surprised I even tried to push through, for a second I thought I was into it.. but like I revealed, I did not finish the book. Perhaps it’s my own fault that I lost momentum by not keeping up with it and losing track of the characters.

I will say, that what kept me going was that there were some beautiful prose in there… This one in particular stood out to me.

Stand out passage:

“Just as there was a first instant when someone rubbed two sticks together to make a spark, there was a first time joy was felt, and first time for sadness. For a while, new feelings were being invented all the time. Desire was born early, as was regret. When stubbornness was felt for the first time, it started a chain reaction, creating the feeling of resentment on the one hand, and alientation and loneliness on the other. It might have been a certain counterclockwise movement of the hips that marked the birth of ecstasy; a bolt of lightening that caused the first feeling of awe. Or maybe it was the body of a girl named Alma. Contrary to logic, the feeling of surprise wasn’t born immediately. It only came after people had enough time to get used to things as they were. And when enough time had passed, and someone felt the first feeling of surprise, someone, somewhere else, felt the first pang of nostalgia.

It is also true that sometimes people felt things and, because there was no word for them, they went unmentioned. The oldest emotion in the world may be that of being moved; but to describe it — just to name it — must have been like trying to catch something invisibile.

(Then again the oldest feeling in the world might simply have been confusion)

Having begun to feel, people’s desire to feel grew. They wanted to feel more, feel deeper, despite how much it sometimes hurt. People became addicted to feeling. They struggled to uncover new emotions. It’s possible that this is how art is born. New kinds of joy were forged, along with new kinds of sadness: The eternal disappointment of life as it is; the relief of unexpected reprieve; the fear of dying.

Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist. There are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written, or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom, or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges, and absorbs the impact.” (Pages 166 – 167)

The Final Verdict:

The History of Love is about a book that was written and lost. This passage above was one of the largest passages that quoted this fictional book that bound the story together. What I realized too deep into the book was that I would have preferred the book to actually be the book they kept talking about!

Final Verdict: just go watch the movie… which is what I am going to do.

I know the book is always better than the movie, but perhaps in this case it will be the opposite.

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