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."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."
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?