I will admit that I had never heard of ‘The History of Love’ by Nicole Krauss until relatively recently in spite of the huge number of endorsements it seems to have had from critics over the last few years. The novel only came to my attention after reading some blog reviews recently which gave it extremely high praise so I decided to hunt it down at the library this week. In a nutshell, ‘The History of Love’ tells the parallel stories of Leo Gorsky, an elderly man living in New York City who is unaware that a novel he wrote in his youth entitled ‘The History of Love’ was published under a different name, and Alma Singer, a fourteen year old girl who tries to track down her namesake from the same book who also happens to be the woman that Leo based his novel on. However, this brief summary only scratches the surface of the intricately-drawn mystery at the heart of the story.
Readers should not be fooled by the unassuming chick-lit style cover and title – this isn’t the easiest book in the world to read or to fall in love with. I personally found the story itself a bit confusing and had to go back over things several times. I don’t know if this was because of the complicated structure of multiple narratives or if it was just my brain being sluggish in the 31 degree heat currently suffocating south-east England at the moment – probably a combination of both. On the plus side, Krauss’s writing is consistently excellent, whether she is describing the awkwardness of adolescence or the loneliness of old age. She always manages to pitch the tone perfectly for each of her diverse cast of characters so ‘The History of Love’ is worth reading just for the language if you are not too concerned about the blurring of the plot.
‘The History of Love’ is a highly original and poignant tale of love and loss with a sizeable dose of quirkiness mixed in for good measure. Just don’t be too surprised if you lose track of what is going on in this deceptively complex novel.