The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss, is a novel with a unique viewpoint, meshing lives and loves in a story within a story. Krauss has done an excellent job of infusing the pages with several stories, within the whole. We have Leo Gursky, a man who is aged and dying, and terrified of dying alone, without anyone knowing. He is obsessed with that fear, and goes out of his way to bring attention to himself, each day, incidents such as dropping change all over the floor of the market. Leo’s story is the most intense, in my opinion, because of his past history as a Holocaust survivor, surviving in the forests, and also due to the loss of his youthful, first love, Alma. He was able to survive by continually dreaming of Alma. When it came to her, his will was extremely strong.
He is left to survive the loss of his family, who all died during the Holocaust. Leo Gursky fell in love as a young boy, with a girl named Alma. Alma eventually leaves for America, and Leo is left behind, to suffer the pain of the loss of that love, also.
Gursky eventually comes to America. His fears are still intact. He is a locksmith by trade, unlocking doors for others, but not able to unlock his own haunted past. It is as if he is frozen in time. He dreams of Alma, his lost love, to get him through life. His one staunch friend, through all of this, is Bruno, a childhood friend, who seemingly lives upstairs from Gursky.
Gursky has a very intense and vivid imagination, one that can get him through painful circumstances. His imagination helps him survive loneliness, helps him in writing a book called The History of Love, which he then entrusts to a good friend, to hold, until the friend sees him again. Therein lies the beginning of a journey, the journey of the book, into the hands of others.
It ends up causing curiosity, to one young girl, named Alma (named by her parents after the Alma in Gursky’s book), in the present day…and she begins a search, for the author, which in reality is a catharsis for her to help her deal with the loss of her father, who has recently died.
I recommend The History of Love. It is intense on so many levels, and Nicole Krauss manages to deliver the final punch, with brilliance.