The History of Love

( 209 )

Overview

"Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive, drawing attention to himself at the milk counter of Starbucks. But life wasn't always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And although he doesn't know it, that book also survived: it crossed oceans and generations, and changed lives." Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that book. She has her hands full keeping track of her
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The History of Love

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Overview

"Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive, drawing attention to himself at the milk counter of Starbucks. But life wasn't always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And although he doesn't know it, that book also survived: it crossed oceans and generations, and changed lives." Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that book. She has her hands full keeping track of her little brother Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah) and taking copious notes in her book, How to Survive in the Wild Volume Three. But when a mysterious letter arrives in the mail she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
"Once upon a time a man who had become invisible arrived in America." An unlikely and unforgettable hero, Leo Gursky is a survivor -- of war, of love, and of loneliness. A retired locksmith, Leo does his best to get by. He measures the passage of days by the nightly arrival of the delivery boy from the Chinese restaurant and has arranged a code with his upstairs neighbor: Three taps on the radiator means, "ARE YOU ALIVE?, two means YES, one NO." But it wasn't always so. Sixty years earlier, before he fled Poland for New York, Leo met a girl named Alma and fell in love. He wrote a book and named the character in it after his beloved. Years passed, lives changed, and unbeknownst to Leo, the book survived. And it provides Leo -- in the eighth decade of his life -- with a link to the son he's never known.

How this long-lost book makes an extraordinary reappearance and connects the lives of disparate characters is only one of the small miracles The History of Love offers its readers. Rich, inventive, and continually surprising, this is a novel about lost love, found love, and rediscovered love; it is about where we find love when it seems all too elusive and what happens when we do. In short, it is a triumph. (Summer 2005 Selection)
Vogue
“Confirms the depth and breadth of her talent.”
New York Times
“Vertiginously exciting.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Moving and virtuosic.”
Ron Charles
Even in moments of startling peculiarity, [Krauss] touches the most common elements of the heart. For Leo, obsessed with his death but struggling to be noticed, and for Alma, ready to grow up but arrested by her mother's grief, the persistence of love drives them to an astonishing connection. In the final pages, the fractured stories of The History of Love fall together like a desperate embrace.
— The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
There are also two kinds of writers given to the verbal tangents and cartwheels and curlicues that adorn Ms. Krauss's vertiginously exciting second novel: those whose pyrotechnics lead somewhere and those who are merely showing off. While there are times when Ms. Krauss's gamesmanship risks overpowering her larger purpose, her book's resolution pulls everything that precedes it into sharp focus. It has been headed for this moment of truth all along.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The last words of this haunting novel resonate like a pealing bell. "He fell in love. It was his life." This is the unofficial obituary of octogenarian Leo Gursky, a character whose mordant wit, gallows humor and searching heart create an unforgettable portrait. Born in Poland and a WWII refugee in New York, Leo has become invisible to the world. When he leaves his tiny apartment, he deliberately draws attention to himself to be sure he exists. What's really missing in his life is the woman he has always loved, the son who doesn't know that Leo is his father, and his lost novel, called The History of Love, which, unbeknownst to Leo, was published years ago in Chile under a different man's name. Another family in New York has also been truncated by loss. Teenager Alma Singer, who was named after the heroine of The History of Love, is trying to ease the loneliness of her widowed mother, Charlotte. When a stranger asks Charlotte to translate The History of Love from Spanish for an exorbitant sum, the mysteries deepen. Krauss (Man Walks into a Room) ties these and other plot strands together with surprising twists and turns, chronicling the survival of the human spirit against all odds. Writing with tenderness about eccentric characters, she uses earthy humor to mask pain and to question the universe. Her distinctive voice is both plangent and wry, and her imagination encompasses many worlds. Agent, Bill Clegg at Burnes & Clegg. First serial to the New Yorker; BOMC, QPB and Reader's Subscription selections; author tour; film rights to Warner Brothers; audio rights to Recorded Books; foreign rights sold in 15 countries. (May 2) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A boy in Poland falls in love and writes a book when World War II arrives, and both the love and the book are lost. Leo Gursky, now in his eighties and living in New York City, struggles to be noticed each day so that people will know he has not yet died. Meanwhile, 14-year-old Alma Singer wants her brother to be normal and her mother to be happy again after the death of Alma's father. In a quest for the story behind her name, Alma and Leo find each other, and Leo learns that the book he wrote so long ago has not been lost. Krauss (Man Walks into a Room) develops the story beautifully, incrementally revealing details to expose more and more of the mystery behind Leo's book, The History of Love. At the end, some uncertainty remains about a few of the characters, but it does not matter because the important connections between them are made. Recommended for literary fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/05.]-Sarah Conrad Weisman, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The histories of several unresolved, inchoate and remembered loves. The first of the stories here is that of New York City octogenarian Leo Gursky, a Polish war refugee who came to America seeking Alma, the girl he had loved, who had emigrated before him. Following a bleakly funny opening sequence that sharply dramatizes Leo's undiminishable vitality, and also reveals teasing details about Alma's American life, second-novelist Krauss (Man Walks into a Room, 2002) shifts the focus to adolescent Alma Singer, who's edging cautiously toward womanhood while dealing with her unstable younger brother Emanuel (aka "Bird") and widowed mother Charlotte (a literary translator). Alma's memories of her late father, a cancer victim, take the forms of a fixation on survival techniques and an obsession with an autobiographical book (which Charlotte translates): a homage to another Alma, and the work of Holocaust survivor Zvi Litvinoff, whose resemblances to and connections with Leo Gursky lie at the heart of this novel's unfolding mysteries. Suffice it to say that each of Krauss's searching and sentient characters is both exactly who he or she seems to be and another person entirely, and that that paradox is expertly worked out as Krauss gradually reveals the provenance of the eponymous History; the relationship that embraces Litvinoff, Gursky and the latter's mysterious upstairs neighbor Bruno; and the woman or women they "all" loved and lost. These enigmas are deepened and underscored by the chaotic "diary" in which Bird records the apocalyptic fantasies that are at heart his own history of love and loss, another son's search for another father, and an affirmation of the compensation for loss throughexercise of the imagination that this brilliant novel itself so memorably incarnates. A most unusual and original piece of fiction-and not to be missed. First serial to New Yorker; film rights to Warner Bros., David Heyman to produce and Alfonso Cuaron to direct; Book-of-the-Month Club, Quality Paperback Book Club selection; author tour
Miami Herald
“It’s the sort of book that makes life bearable after all.”
New York
“A significant novel, genuinely one of the year’s best. Emotionally wrenching yet intellectually rigorous, idea-driven but with indelible characters and true suspense.”
Ali Smith
“It restores your faith in fiction. It restores all sorts of faith.”
Janet Maslin - New York Times

Vertiginously exciting.... Beyond the vigorous whiplash that keeps ?The History of Love ?moving (and keeps its reader off balance until a stunning finale), this novel is tightly packed with ingenious asides.... Even at their most oddball, these flourishes reflect the deep, surprising wisdom that gives this novel its ultimate heft.

Claire Messud - LA Weekly

The novel's achievement is precisely this: to have made a new fiction—alternately delightful and hilarious and deeply affecting.

Andre Aciman

Nicole Krauss's Leo Gursky is all voice—frisky, aching, jittery, stunning, heart-rending, irresistible. There's nothing like his voice, nor will there ever be. A cross between I.B. Singer and Woody Allen, Kafka and Leopold Bloom, [it] doesn't just work its way into the pantheon of American voices: it literally walks straight up to them and asks them to move over—or else it will haunt their living days and nights. And it does just that.

Guardian

Krauss writes like an angel.

New York
“A significant novel, genuinely one of the year’s best. Emotionally wrenching yet intellectually rigorous, idea-driven but with indelible characters and true suspense.”
Washington Post
“At least as heartbreaking as it is hilarious.”
Guardian

Krauss writes like an angel.

Spectator
“One of the most passionate vindications of the written word in recent fiction. It takes one’s breath away.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393060348
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/2/2005
  • Pages: 252
  • Sales rank: 270,053
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicole Krauss has been hailed by the New York Times as “one of America’s most important novelists.” She is the author of the international bestseller Great House, a finalist for the National Book Award, and Man Walks Into a Room. Her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 209 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(106)

4 Star

(48)

3 Star

(24)

2 Star

(19)

1 Star

(12)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 209 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2008

    Read this book

    This was the best novel I have read in decades, and I read a lot. I cried through the last 20 pages, and then immediately started reading it over again.

    16 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2008

    one of my all-time best

    I had the pleasure of LISTENING to this book on CD and i must say that the voices truly enhanced what i found to be a profoundly perfect book. i'm astounded that the author is a young woman she has such an 'old' voice. i did something i've NEVER done before: when i finished, i went right back to the beginning and started all over again. I wanted to pick up all the subtle nuances and almost wanted to do a flow-chart to keep track. what a beauty!

    8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Above average old man story?

    Didn't correlate differing icons for narrators at chapter headings immediately...
    I feel old reading about Leo Gursky; his body is mine, slowing, and failing. He wants to shunt aside pain or excitement until a connection, until proof, is recognized and felt.
    How much fear lingers near love? We carry love and its small memories. I want to plant a flag on this planet, a mark, if not celebrity. I want my thoughts and dreams remembered and carried over to the younger and this book reaches high to achieve these purposeful goals for Leo.

    6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    History of Love

    The book was so good I couldnt put it down. I enjoyed it very much. My 16 year old son also really liked this book. Finally a book about real values.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2008

    A reviewer

    The History of Love, from the first sentence to the very last, is something so beautiful it is beyond words. I've cried, I've laughed, and I've never read a story quite like this. The novel is so different and so unique it defies description. Every word, every sentence, brings it to life.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2010

    The Sadness of Love

    The History of Love was a book chosen by our book club to read and, one I don"t regret; however, it's not to say I would put this on my top 10 list. The book is broken up and intertwined into past and present and you are looking at several lives throughout the chapters only for them to come together at the end. The main character Leo Gursky has written a book (The History of Love) about his one and only love Alma only for it to have been stolen and published by a friend early on in his life. Leo and Alma were from a small town in Poland and prior to WWII reaching their town, a pregnant Alma and her family left for America leaving Leo to come to America a few years later only to find that she had moved on with her life. Leo spent the rest of his life dismal, thinking about death, and the son he never met or tried to meet. Through an odd mixture of events (that led me to reread several pages) a child named after the main character of The History of Love, Alma, and her brother helped Leo Gursky find life (now that he was in his eighties). I respect the writing and integrity of The History of Love-it makes for great discussion; however, I didn't have the same emotional feelings like so many did because I felt the novel was a little too fictionalized and some of the main characters weren't played out fully. There were points of humor throughout; however, the overall tone of the book was very melancholy.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2009

    Brilliant, Dazzling...A must read!

    I really loved this book and I definetely recommend it. However, I didn't really understand the ending so much and left me with an incomplete and perplexed feeling...otherwise, great characters, interesting storyline and the best part for me was Leo's humor.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2012

    fantastic!

    The poetry of each page took my breath away

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2012

    Wonderful

    If it is ever possible to put emotions into words, which very few of us can do, reading this novel is like reading emotions, only Nicole Krauss found a way to include a narrative. Pure beauty exists.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Too good for words

    This book is an absolute must read and has immidiately become one of my favorites. The writing is absolutely beautiful and captivating, and the story is compelling. This book will change your life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2007

    One of A Kind

    It is true that the book had its confusing moments, but if you were as captivated by the writing as I was, you will try to solve the puzzle before it is explained to you. The book had many characters and each one seemed to have something to relate to, even though they were extremely different people. All of my emotions were played with by the writing to the point where I saw that I had chills after reading the ending. The story was so good I couldn't wait for someone else to read it so I could talk about it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2007

    Unforgettable

    This book touched me in ways no other book has. It was an emotional roller-coaster. There is humor, grief, love, and even deceit,all woven together in such a beautiful way by Krauss. I felt as if I 'knew' each of the characters, and could understand why they behaved as they did. I will remember this book, and it is one I will only loan, and not give away.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2014

    Kids

    Im only 12 i think anyone would pick up a book diferently, l hope im speking for all kids my age.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2014

    Mariah

    She shivers and pulls him closer, pressing her body to his. She kisses him hard and slides her tongue in his mouth.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2014

    Mariah

    Baby im here...

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2013

    Best book I've read in a long time!

    This book is beautifully written. I couldn't put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2013

    Astonishing

    Astonishing

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    The History of Love

    Beautiful story told in lyrical prose. My favorite type of book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    just read the firs page and on my way

    just read the firs page and on my way

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This was, I think, a book about an old man, a young girl and a b

    This was, I think, a book about an old man, a young girl and a book. The young girl, Alma, is named after a character in a love story (aptly named The History of Love) and the old man, of course, has his connections to it as well. The book transcends time, relationships and countries. Sounds pretty great, right?




    I started out really loving this book. Maybe it’s my love of old men, but the fact that it was narrated by an old man who didn’t want to die on a day he went unnoticed immediately hooked me. Unfortunately, he was the best part.




    The rest of the book fell flat. The other characters weren’t fully developed and the plotline was shaky. Every time I thought things were going to get better, I was disappointed. Looking back through the reviews on Goodreads, I should have known what was coming. The reviews there weren’t all that stellar, either. But unfortunately, I didn’t listen to them because I thought they would be wrong (like they usually are).




    Oh well, I guess it’s on to the next one!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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