I read this book when it was first published and I was recently out of high school. It appealed, very much, to the dramatic teenager in me, who thought there was nothing more romantic than the tragic love of Moulin Rouge and whose own high school relationship was characterized by high highs and low lows. It’s not that The History of Love is, itself, histrionic, but Nicole Krauss does employ a very dreamy, lyrical style of prose that expresses romance intrinsically, bursting out from the spaces between every word.
I re-read The History of Love this year, wanting to give myself a break from reviewing new books and return to an old favorite. So much for taking a break from reviewing, but why not spend a few paragraphs on a book that wraps me up in a blanket and gives me such a comforting, cozy hug? From unraveling the mystery behind the authorship and small notoriety of the book-within-a-book The History of Love, to the painful and funny character studies of fourteen year old Alma Singer, her brother Bird, and aging, lonely Leo Gursky, there’s a lot of sentiment packed into this small book. It’s both performative and pragmatic: the characters come to terms with the small, hard truths that ground their lives and threaten dreams of something bigger, but the chapters of the nested novel leap off the page with whimsy and metaphor that, in their own way, give structure to intangibles like dreams and emotions and therefore make them real, too.
I am 100% aware of the possibility that this book would be too saccharine for many. I find, even reading it with ten more years of cynicism under my belt, that it’s touching and has a refreshingly optimistic attitude that seems to be largely absent from a lot of other literary fiction I’ve read lately.