Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The History of Love - the Second Time Around


"Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering."
It's the season for giving abandoned books another chance here at The Literary Stew so since I recently read and  loved Great House by Nicole Krauss, I decided to give The History of Love another go. I abandoned this book years ago. I found the first part painful and sad. The book starts out by introducing a character called Leo, a lonely old man, craving to be seen at least once a day by anyone - people in the supermarket or in the streets. To be seen and thus feel alive. His need is so strong that he answers an ad to pose as a nude model. The idea of having a group of artists just staring at him for hours appeals to his lonely soul. I stopped reading after the excruciating scene at the art studio. It was too sad not to mention embarrassing.

However, after reading Great House and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (Krauss' husband), I knew I had to persevere with The History of Love. I mentioned in a previous post that I'm fascinated by both these writers and plan to read everything they've written.
 
I'm glad I finally read The History of Love. I liked it a lot however I didn't love it. I prefer Great House (my review here). Both novels however have many similar themes such as memory and loss. They also have the same style of switching back and forth between different narratives. In this case there are two storytellers - Leo, the octagenarian and Alma a fourteen-year-old girl who was named after a character in Leo's lost book. How this two eventually come together is a lovely and sad story. It's interesting that I was actually given this book in a beautiful hardbound edition when I was pregnant with my first child six years ago. My friend wrote a dedication saying, "a little something you might like to read in your condition.' I wondered then how it might apply to 'my condition,' but now I understand. It is truly a novel about love, in all its different, wonderful and heartbreaking forms.
``And then I thought: Perhaps that is what it means to be a father -- to teach your child to live without you. If so, no one was a greater father than I."
Krauss is such a talented writer. It's obvious she has improved with each succeeding novel she's written so I can't wait to see what she'll produce next. If you've read her books, which one did you prefer? Has anyone read her first novel, Man Walks into a Room?

10 comments:

  1. You know, still haven't read any book by either Foer or Krauss, though I've had Foer's book Everything is Illuminated for a while. Started reading it, and I liked it, but other books got in the way. And I hope to read Great House soon, too.

    Have yet to see whether I want to read all of their books, but I'm excited to find out.:)

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  2. Glad you gave the book another chance. I liked The History of Love even more than Great House but I agree that her writing is very good. I have a copy of Man Walks into a room but have yet to read it. I'll let you know what I think when I've finished it.

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  3. I havent read either of her books but I very recently purchased the History of Love and hope to read it in the next couple of months.

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  4. Glad you re-read this and liked it. I liked Great House more too, but found this lovely and quite heart-breaking, in a good way. I borrowed Man Walks Into a Room from the library but didn't get a chance to read it because someone else requested it, but I intend reading it soon. I'm kind of stuck on Mary Wollstonecraft at the moment! :)

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  5. @fantaghiro23 - I wonder if you'll like Foer and Krauss. I look forward to your reviews.

    @Sandra - yes, let me know your thoughts on Man Walks into a Room. I've read mixed reviews.

    @Jessica - hope you enjoy this book!

    @Violet - It was your review of Great House that got me to give Krauss another chance.

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  6. I haven't read Great House but I did read both The History of Love and Man Walks Into a Room. I enjoyed History more, but still thought both were great. You can find my review of both on my blog under "The Books" tab. (I'm commenting from my phone so it's hard for me to link.)

    Anyhow, it sounds like I really need to get around to Great House soon.

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  7. I listened to the audio book when this was first released. It too was very good.

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  8. I loved Great House but remember not having strong feelings about The History of Love when I read it years ago. Of course, now I want to re-read it to see whether my reactions will be different. It seems a lot of readers feel this way too (although a lot of readers preferred The History of Love as well.)

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  9. glad to have found this post... I've got The History of Love on my TBR pile, but haven't time to get into that. I've read Extremely Loud, but can't say I love it. You know its movie adaptation is coming out soon. I've also got Everything's Illuminated on my TBR pile. Have seen the film, quite like it.

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  10. The History of Love is one of the finest things i have read in awhile. My son is currently reading it for like the 3rd time. There are so many gems you have to stop and reread and savor, the book moves along a little slow. I really felt it would be a waste to rush through it. I plan on reading it again.

    I am currently reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and it is fascinating to find the parallel themes in the 2 books. I would love to know more about how these two very talented writers decided to write such similar books at the same time. Was it like a challenge, each book must contain certain elements?

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