The History of Love

by Nicole Krauss

Book, 2005



Call number




New York : Norton, c2005.


It has been decades since Leo Leo Gursky first surrendered his heart, then wrote a book about it--at the tender age of 10--and he's been in love with the same person ever since. Leo believes his book is lost to time, but what he doesn't know is, not only has it survived 60 years without him, it has also been an inspiration to others. Fourteen-year-old Alma was even named for a character from the book. When she realizes how deeply the story touched her lonely mother, she embarks upon a search for answers.

Media reviews

Beskrivelse: I en nedslitt leilighet i New York prøver Leo Gursky å overleve litt til. Hver kveld banker han på radiatoren for at naboen over skal høre at han fortsatt lever.Men livet hans har ikke alltid vært slik. For seksti år siden bodde han hjemme i Polen, der han forelsket seg
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og skrev en bok. Kjæresten mistet han da hun flyktet til Amerika rett før krigen. Boken ble også borte. Men uten at han selv er klar over det, har den overlevd: Den har krysset hav, blitt overlevert mellom generasjoner, og forandret liv. Fjorten år gamle Alma er oppkalt etter en person i denne boken. Etter at faren hennes døde, er hun fullt opptatt med å finne en ny kjæreste til moren, holde styr på en lillebror som tror han er Messias, og ta utførlige notater i et hefte hun kaller Hvordan overleve i villmarken, Bind tre. En dag dukker det opp et mystisk brev i posten, og Alma begir seg ut på jakt etter sin navnesøster.Personene i Kjærlighetens historie er mennesker man blir glad i. Hver for seg sysler de med gåter som på bemerkelsesverdig vis er forbundet med hverandre. Nicole Krauss har skrevet en medrivende og imponerende sammensatt roman om mennesker som har blitt avkuttet fra sin fortid, og som på hver sin pussige, rørende måte forsøker å få livet til å henge sammen.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member CityLove
So far I am annoyed, confused, frustrated and unmoved by the language but that could be because my brain is distracted by all the confusion. Can someone jsut tell me what happens? I don't have the energy to finish. I got to page 135 and have thrown up my hands.
LibraryThing member alexdaw
I love a book that makes me laugh on the first page.....and I quote, just to get you in, and because it won't give anything away....

"When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, LEO GURSKY IS SURVIVED BY AN APARTMENT FULL OF SH*T."

Love it.

I laughed in self-recognition. Oh
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The History of Love is filled with this wry, self-deprecating humour. But it is also about serious stuff. I'll leave that to you to find out what it is. It's filled with stuff that makes you think. I like that.

For example....I liked this made me think....

"People became addicted to feeling. They struggled to uncover new emotions. It's possible that this is how art was 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." (p. 107)

or this....

"There were other refugees around him experiencing the same fears and helplessness, but Litvinoff didn't find any comfort in this because there are two types of people in the world: those who prefer to be sad among others, and those who prefer to be sad alone." (p. 155)

My copy of The History of Love is only new. It was a Secret Santa gift from a dear new friend in the Librarything Virago Group. But it looks battered and beaten now. A testament to being dragged from beside my bed to the beach and back. It has been chucked on the front seat of the car while I drive to rescue teenagers from taxi ranks and retrieved from the bottom of a beach bag filled with late Christmas presents for distant nieces and nephews. It's had sand poured from it and half hearted attempts to flatten out pages which have then had their corners turned down to remember the good bits.

In short it has been well loved.

Not convinced yet? Read the six pages of laudatory reviews in the front of the Norton edition - if you must. It was the only thing I didn't like about the book. I thought it was a bit much. A bit over the top. Who's going to read all that? Don't waste your life. Read the book instead.
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LibraryThing member porch_reader
I loved this book! It is going to be hard for me to describe why, so you might be better off to stop reading right here. Just go put this one on your TBR list (if it's not there already).

OK, if you are still with me, I'll try to share just a bit about this book. Krauss intertwines the stories of
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Leo Gursky, an aging New Yorker who came to the United States from Poland during World War II, and Alma Singer, a teenaged girl whose mother translates books. At first, the book feels a bit disjointed, jumping between characters and from past to present. But as the story unfolds, unexpected connections arise between characters and events. In the end, the pieces fall together in a way that makes perfect sense.

So, the plot is intriguing. (It reminds me a little of [The Shadow of the Wind] actually.) And the characters practically jump from the pages, coming to life with only a few details. But I think it is the writing that made this a memorable read for me. Krauss writes a story that I sank into everytime I picked up the book. I was sorry to turn the last page.

I highly recommend this book!
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LibraryThing member CarolynSchroeder
Wow, this was exactly like reading "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer. Only after I finished this book, did I find out the two authors are married. Sadly, this story was so parallel and unoriginal to me, having read Foer's book, by coincendence, recently. I thought the
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story in The History of Love was unecessarily confusing, but thought the characters were excellent. Bird, Alma (the younger) and Leo are just wonderful characters; as was Isaac by association and reference. The whole pulse of the novel, with the truncated pages and wild child thoughts was so "done before" ... I actually think this novel may have come first, but still ... all the themes run together and again, are the same ones we see over and over in Foer's books. Oh well, it was worth the read. Alma's reflection(s) about her father are so endearing.
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LibraryThing member clamato
One of my favourite books and we finally got to discuss it in my book group tonight. Second time I read it & I've listened to the audio book twice. And that by the way, is one of the best audio productions out there. It's always a different take when you read a book a 2nd time round but there was a
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new understanding and appreciation of the author's writing. There are some lines in this book that just stopped me in my tracks. And many heart wrenching moments. It's bittersweet but also filled with a lot of very funny moments. I look forward to the movie and something new from Nicole Krauss.
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LibraryThing member novelcommentary
This is a well written tale that has a lot to do with how much a book can affect another life. Several storylines are told in alternating chapters and all come together in the end. There is Leo, a cranky 70 year old who escaped the Nazi's and once wrote a book for the girl he loved. In America he
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tries to make sure he is noticed everyday since it might be his last. Another narrator is a 15 year old girl whose was named Alma because that was the name of the girl in a book called the History of Love, a book her father loved and gave to her mother when they met. There is also Lvi, who was a friend of Leo's back in Poland and who translated the famous story. The novel takes some work to get to the mystery that remains at the core of Alma's quest, but the work is worth the story.
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LibraryThing member RachelPenso
This book, called The History of Love was about a book called The History of Love and the man who wrote it and the girl who was named after every girl in the book called The History of Love. This was, quite possibly the best book about a book I have ever read. I wasn't ready for it to end.
LibraryThing member jmoncton
Leo Gursky is old. He is so old that he has written a note that he pins to himself that tells people his name and where he should be buried if they find him dead. Every day, he sends messages to his upstairs neighbor by tapping on the radiator so that they know they are both alive. But when Leo
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Gursky was young growing up in Poland, he fell in love with a girl named Alma and wrote a book for her called The History of Love. As a Polish Jew in the 1930's, Leo's life is torn apart and he barely escapes the Holocaust to create a new life in New York.

Alma Singer is a teenager in NYC, who was named after a character in The History of Love. Her father has died and she is searching - searching for someone for her mother to fall in love with, searching for a real friend, searching for more memories of her father, and searching for the real story behind The History of Love.

The story jumps around between these 2 narrators, Alma's brother Bird, Zvi Litvinoff, the published author of The History of Love, and excerpts from a very bizarre book. At times, I found myself very lost, not knowing context, characters, or even time and place. But I'm glad I stuck with it. Although there are parts of the story that are improbable, it is beautifully told. This is defintely a book that shines in audio. Narrated by different people, the parts told as Leo Gurksy (read by George Guidall) are perfect. He is cantankerous, crochety, funny and very real. tap tap.
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LibraryThing member maxlance1
Beginning and ending took it from three to a four. Middle is a little muddled. Standard love overcoming Nazis and the like, but crazy old people fun to read about. Now if there would just be a book about wacky old Nazis...
LibraryThing member StephaniePettry
Absolutely loved this book by the end. It took me about half the book to really appreciate it, but by the last page I was in love and in awe. Left me speechless - a must read.
LibraryThing member WittyreaderLI
I started off REALLY loving this book. The characters were very vivid. But the part where the character of Zvi or whatever his name was came in got me a little bored. I enjoyed reading Alma's chapters, as well as the parts about Leo. Overall though, this story was a little confusing. I enjoyed this
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book but it wasnt' the best I read all year.
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LibraryThing member lisalangford
This felt very fragmented to me at first, and little frustrating. However it came together well in the end. I think it WAS fragmented, AND my state of mind (stress around holidays) just exacerbated it. Maybe it wasn't the best time for me to read this. I did enjoy it and liked how she wove
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everything together.
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LibraryThing member ACQwoods
This was a re-read for me because the first time I read it, I fell so completely under its spell that I finished in just a few hours and couldn't remember many details later. I tried to go back and read it slowly but got completely enveloped again, which just shows how good it is. The novel swirls
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around the fictional book The History of Love and those who have been affected by it. The author does a great job of incorporating lots of humor without sacrificing gravity. If you pick this up, make sure the rest of your weekend is free.
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LibraryThing member kageeh
I truly disliked this book. Yes, it is a complex rendering of themes that come together, all too predictably, at the end but it is the epitome of a post-modern novel and one that tries too hard at that. An otherwise beautiful story of an old man, a Holocaust survivor, who writes a book about his
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childhood love and then discovers both to be lost to him, and a young teenager who, while trying to assuage her mother's grief at losing her husband (and the girl's father), sets out to find her mother a new love and the origin of her first name, seems replete with unnecessary and unrealized peripheral characters. All these stories weave in and out of each other in a range of sometimes too cute ways only to meet up in what was, to me, an easily foreseen and frustratingly unfulfilled ending. I am so perplexed as to what others claim reverberates so forcefully for them in this book.
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LibraryThing member elle-kay
I just finished the book and while I thought it was a very touching story, I feel as if I've been left with this huge secret but somehow don't quite understand why it's so special. Krauss's writing is definately one-of-a-kind (the kind that pulls you in and doesn't let go until it's rung the last
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drop of emotion from you) and although I did like how the reader is left to ponder the future of the characters, I wish that Krauss had connected the pieces of the story better.

Additionally, I felt as if I had to ignore some of the parts that didn't neccesarily matter to the overall storyline in order to follow along with what was going on. It's definately one of those books that you have to go back and re-read a second or third time to really understand the entire plot and to appreciate it.
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LibraryThing member booksandwine
I loved this book! Leo Gursky wrote a book a very long time ago for a woman named Alma Merminsky. The book was called the History of Love. Sometime later after the book was published and it got around, eventually a girl was named after Alma, Alma Singer. Anyways this girl becomes really interested
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in the book and has to figure out everything about her namesake. Alma's brother, Bird, believes he is a lamed vovnik which means he is one of the 36 the world depends on, whose prayers go directly to God.This book is definately full of fantastic characters, interesting interweaving and the language is delicious. It is very reminiscent of her husband, Jonathan Safran Foer's writing style, but she also makes the story her own.
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LibraryThing member helpfulsnowman's the thing, the writing is absolutely wonderful. It's really great stuff. But the story is harder to follow than my non-signaling, weaving uncle is to follow through downtown traffic.

So, if you're a fan of writing that is gorgeous in its own right, then you'll still get something out
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of this, something great. But if you're a big plot person you might find yourself a little confounded
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LibraryThing member luccijude
This book takes several reads... it's not one of those exciting books that you plow through in an evening but it's well worth the effort it takes. If you manage it, you will walk away feeling that people can be truly amazing when no one is looking. Krauss is married to Jonathan Safran Foer who
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wrote Everything Is Illumniated... the two books have similarities in style and content but Krauss' is worlds more powerful.
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LibraryThing member gwendolyndawson
This novel is composed of several stories weaved together around a book called The History of Love written by a man in Poland about his first love. I found the story to be somewhat sappy and trite, though entertaining.
LibraryThing member mjmbecky
First, I have to say that this was one of the more difficult audio books to follow. A simple distraction in traffic left me tuning back in to the story saying, "Wait...who is that talking now?" Since it is told from multiple perspectives, and they feel different from one another in the beginning,
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it was often hard to follow each of the stories. To be honest, I just wanted to hear more of Leo's story. The writing is beautiful, and the images that are drawn up amazed me. I found myself agonizing over Leo's happiness, hoping and praying that this beautifully complex character found the joy he so desperately deserved, before he died. In a culture where we sometimes side step the story of the aged, I found Leo's experiences to be telling, and to show how the actions and experiences of one's life can influence one's philosophy on aging and dying.

While complex and beautiful, this story took great care to weave the lives of multiple characters together in a very satisfying way. In an effort to not give away the ending, all I can say is that the entire story feels like it's waiting for the ending of the story, when the reader can see all the plot points finally slide together. Altogether, I found the story haunting, revealing, thought-provoking, and beautiful. Difficult at times to follow in audio, the novel was one that needed careful attention. I genuinely appreciated and enjoyed The History of Love, and would readily recommend it to any serious reader.
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LibraryThing member karieh
I’m not so sure “The History of Love” is about love as much as it is loss…or maybe searching for loves that have been lost. It’s a sad but beautiful book about people trying to regain and understand the most important relationships of their lives.

During most of the book, I felt lost
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myself. I knew the plot lines and characters would somehow come together…but always felt like I was about 2 steps behind the author. Which was OK, and in some books it’s not – I just want to throw the book down in frustration. But in this, sometimes a feeling is expressed so well, that I found myself nodding in agreement.

“Yesterday I saw a man kicking a dog and I felt it behind my eyes. I don’t know what to call this, a place before tears. The pain of forgetting: spine. The pain of remembering: spine.”

Krauss takes on a major challenge in her characters…she voices a World War II survivor, a fifteen-year old girl, a twelve-year old boy and a few others…and makes them authentic. Their voices are very clear and very convincing.

From Leo, the old man: “If we do talk, we never speak in Yiddish. The words of our childhood became strangers to us – we couldn’t use them in the same way and so we chose not to use them at all. Life demanded a new language.”

He’s experienced such grief, such horrors in his life that he was never able to fully live it.

“After she left, everything fell apart. No Jew was safe. There was rumors of unfathomable things, and because we couldn’t fathom them we failed to believe them, until we had no choice and it was too late.”

He remains trapped in the past, searching for that which he lost, and creating the answers that he can, either through words or imagination.

While I believe Leo is truly the main character of the book, for it is about him that the major revelations are made – I was drawn more to Alma, the girl who is searching for answers about her life after the death of her father. Where Leo has had many years to search and reflect and live, she is still trying to find a way in the world, some idea of how to become her own person.

Her voice is at times so childlike and bewildered…but there is an underlying strength that leads one to believe that given time, she will get where she needs to go.

“It wasn’t that far, so I decided to walk, and while I did, I imagined rooms all over the city that housed archives no one had ever heard of, like last words, white lies, and false descendants of Catherine the Great.”

There are not many answers to be found in “The History of Love”…but the questions that are asked and the way they are phrased should be familiar to us all. Is the end of a search finding the answers or the way that we change while we are searching? Will we ever truly find that which we seek or will we become someone whose life is defined by our journey?

“And then I realized that I’d been searching for the wrong person. I looked into the eyes of the oldest man in the world for a boy who fell in love when he was ten.”

Or is the search for love the one journey that defines us all?
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LibraryThing member Othemts
This book tells the interweaving stories of two people. One an elderly Holocaust survivor who escaped too late to find that his true love has married another man and is also raising his son. The other is a teenage girl who tries to find meaning in the book her mother is translating which contains
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the character Alma for whom she is named. I always fall in the trap of summarizing books when I review them, but I shant do that here. Frankly I'm not even quite sure what happened in this book. But I do know that it has some lovely writing with many amazing passages. If the narrative is complex and disjointed the novel goes straight to the heart at exploring love, loneliness, grief, and the need to connect.
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LibraryThing member ffortsa
A beautifully written and heartbreaking book about love, grief and the wounds of war. Written from the point of view of one very young and one old person. The parallel tracks come together (of course) in a poetic and tender denoument.
LibraryThing member jennyo
Wow. This must be the summer of excellent books. I just finished Gilead by Marilynne Robinson a week or two ago and I thought it might be my favorite book ever. Well, The History of Love is at least as wonderful as Gilead.

I packed the kids off to Grandma's this weekend, so I had the whole day to
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indulge myself in this wonderful story. I don't know how to describe it really, so I'll start with a quote from the book that's actually describing a character in the book, but could easily apply to Ms. Krauss as well (and to Ms. Robinson, if you substituted the word Christian for Jewish):

"To call him a Jewish writer," he added, "or worse, an experimental writer, is to miss entirely the point of his humanity, which resisted all categorization."

I loved the narrators Krauss created. Leo and Alma (and Bird) seemed so real to me that I felt I was inhabiting their world today. And I loved their voices. And the stories, the way they entwined.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the bit entitled The Age of Silence and the desription of how gestures were the first language:

No distinction was made between the gestures of language and the gestures of life.


Beccause of the frequency of these mistakes, over time the gesture for asking forgiveness evolved into the simplest form. Just to open your palm was to say: Forgive me.

The book was so heartbreaking. And yet. I found it full of life and love too. Beautifully, beautifully written. I will keep this one and reread it someday.
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LibraryThing member MarciaDavis
The History of Love spans of period of over 60 years and takes readers from Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe to present day Brighton Beach. At the center of each main character's psyche is the issue of loneliness, and the need to fill a void left empty by lost love. Leo Gursky is a retired locksmith
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who immigrates to New York after escaping SS officers in his native Poland, only to spend the last stage of his life terrified that no one will notice when he dies. ("I try to make a point of being seen. Sometimes when I'm out, I'll buy a juice even though I'm not thirsty.") Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer vacillates between wanting to memorialize her dead father and finding a way to lift her mother's veil of depression. At the same time, she's trying to save her brother Bird, who is convinced he may be the Messiah, from becoming a 10-year-old social pariah. As the connection between Leo and Alma is slowly unmasked, the desperation, along with the potential for salvation, of this unique pair is also revealed.
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Original publication date



0393060349 / 9780393060348
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