The History of Love by Nicole Krauss blends together the life stories and fates of several of the novel’s characters with beautiful imagination and artistry; it symbolically and literally, keeps love alive. The interwoven structure allows the reader to slowly realize the author’s intentions for each character as if he or she were a piece of a carefully constructed puzzle, which fits together perfectly in the end. The novel begins with a heartbreaking portrayal of Leo Gursky, alone in old age, having lost the love of his life, Alma Mereminski, as a young man. Krauss uses alternating writing styles, which inspire the reader to decipher the ways in which the characters and stories tie together. The histories and relationships of characters lead the reader to assess the influence and importance of love.
Krauss connects her characters with her use of memory, letters, and characterizations, as a way to provide the reader clues about how their stories relate and attach special meaning to their combined story. The novel is told from several perspectives, which the reader must decipher: Leo’s memories, his old friends Zvi Letvinoff and Bruno, a present day girl who reads Leo’s memoirs, which are a childhood love story called The History of Love, and the girl’s family. The girl reads the magnetic story of Leo’s true love, Alma, and is fascinated. As the reader learns about each character, he or she is always considering, how are Leo, Zvi, the girl, and Alma tied together through time and space? Krauss provides an answer in her title, this is s a history of love.
The character’s lives and stories eventually reveal more information about the past and present; they merge and signify the purpose and strength of love. Through their stories the reader sees that it is not necessarily the shared events or experiences that bind people, rather it is the emotional ties. Love remains constant for the characters, it transcends time and space; it remains ageless. The reader recognizes that not only does Leo’s love for Alma make his life worth living long after he moves to America, it keeps him connected with other people too. The reader sees Leo’s character evolve and let others in, because he never closes his heart or stops loving, even when it seems he has lost everything. By holding on to love and sharing it with others, through his writing, for example, Leo’s love persists.
In The History of Love, the reader understands that human love is a powerful emotional bond; it is separate from other human experiences. In retracing the life of one man, and exploring the effects of his love on the lives of others, Krauss shows that love has a unique history for us all. In viewing love as something that surpasses time, we see that it is possible to hold on to love long after other earthly possessions are lost. We think perhaps it can endure.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars