Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I'm happy to say that I'm back to work and in the swing of my normal routine again! All of those repairs and waiting around for appointments and repairmen about drove me batty. I traded repairs though, for a two-day migraine that just wouldn't leave me alone. Ah, the life! Having crazy migraines or a busy mind leads to yet another reason to be a proponent of audio books. Honestly, audio books have saved me on many occasions, such as when I get a headache, have a long drive (as I did to a wedding on Saturday...that kept me from the readathon), or for my daily commute (to keep me from getting insanely angry at ignorant drivers). I can't say that I've ever really listened to audio books on a regular basis until these past several years, and now I don't know what I'd do without a great book to listen to!

With that in mind, there are some audio books that, for me, are more conducive to listening to than others. In the case of The History of Love, I would say that it takes a bit more concentration to follow. It was a great book, just difficult at times to follow.

Synopsis: The premise of this novel is hard to set up without giving things away. Set up with multiple story lines, it seems that the book is a series of short stories; however, the three or so stories eventually start to converge, so it becomes more obvious that they each tie together with the others.

It begins with the life of Leo Gursky, an old man who tells his story of surviving the Holocaust and having lost the love of his life. He tells a story of a girl, who escaped Europe before WWII, whom he loved and never stopped thinking about. After the war, Leo sought her out in New York City, only to find that life circumstances had dramatically changed things between them. You can never quite tell what happened to Leo's life from that point on, but as each of the other stories are introduced, you begin to fill in what might have happened. Each story leads to a wonderful conclusion, which shows how love influences our lives and the directions we each choose to take.

Review: First, I have to say that this was one of the more difficult audio books to follow that I've checked out. 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, it was often hard to follow the stories. To be honest, I just wanted to hear more of Leo's story. Because it begins with him, and does seem to center on him, I found myself wanting to just go back to him. 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.

For more information, see: The History of Love.

*FTC: Review based off of a library audio book.

This novel counts as my 4th in the Audio Book Challenge at Royal Reviews.

Also, don't forget to join in my giveaway for The Secret History of the Pink Carnation! The giveaway ends on 4/18!


  1. I've read this book and can imagine that it is hard to follow in audio format. I absolutely loved the story though. And I agree, to me Leo Gursky seems one of the few older characters that I loved. It is often hard to relate to older people when you're younger, especially when they complain a lot, but this one was so different.

    The book reminded me a lot of Everything is Illuminated, by Foer, have you read it?

  2. I can imagine this would be a hard book to deal with in audio. One day I must reread it because I didn't like it, but feel I should give it another try..

  3. This sounds very much like a book that would be easier to read than to listen to - but sounds complex and interesting none the less.

    thanks you indeed for sharing a fascinating review


  4. I can imagine this being difficult to listen to... it was sometimes difficult to follow along in just reading it. But I really enjoyed this book!

  5. Audiobooks are great to listen to on long drives, but to be honest I don't they work for me unless I've already the book. Otherwise they're just too hard for me to follow. :(

  6. This one sounds like it might be easier to follow in book form than audio. I'm with you on audios being terrific for those of us who suffer migraines. I just went through one on the weekend and I'll just lay in bed and listen to an audiobook. They certainly come in handy then.

  7. I enjoyed this book so much - I'm glad you did too! And like some of the other commenters, I'm impressed you listened to the audio version! I can see how it'd be very easy to get lost.

    And wasn't it fantastic to see an aged character as great as Leo? I wish there were more of them.

  8. Iris--I know. I really liked Leo. I haven't read Everything is Illuminated, but I'll go look it up!

    Kailana--I didn't care for the shifts in speakers. Most of the time, I just wanted to listen to Leo!

    Hannah--I would recommend it, simply for the complexity of the style. It's a strange, tricky, yet beautiful book.

    Jenny & Heidenkind--Yes, tricky, tricky to listen to! I love audio books though, so I always try to keep plugging, even if I'm struggling.

    Darlene--I'm so sorry! Migraines are the bane of our existence, aren't they. Thankfully, there are some great audio books to help us out in times of need. :)

    Nymeth--Thanks! :) I agree about Leo. I haven't run across an older character that I like this much, who even whined about many of the things that usually make me not care for them. In his case, he opened my eyes, and loved his honesty!