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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Book Club Picks: The History of Love

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss captured my attention with an unforgettable opening in the voice of the main character: "When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, LEO GURSKY IS SURVIVED BY AN APARTMENT FULL OF S**T.” 

To the casual observer, retired locksmith Leo Gursky is just another bedraggled old man shuffling through the streets of New York City. An immigrant from Poland, Leo feels so invisible that he resorts to dropping items in stores on purpose and even takes a job as a nude model for an art class in his efforts to be noticed.

No one can tell by looking at him that Leo once cultivated a profound love and wrote a great book or that he lost his finest creation and his entire family in the Holocaust. As a result of the domino chain of loss set in motion by the Holocaust, Leo is unable to contact his only son, a famous writer, and can only admire him from afar.

Elsewhere in the city, fourteen-year-old Alma is already no stranger to loss. Her father died young, causing her mother to drift away psychologically on the sea of her grief. Alma was named after a character in a book, also called The History of Love, which her father once gave to her mother. She begins to suspect that this character was based on a real person and embarks on a quest to find out. 

Leo and Alma’s stories begin to converge, leading them both to surprising discoveries.  Exquisitely written, The History of Love won many literary awards and was a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction. 

Book clubs may be interested in discussing the “story within a story" literary device employed in this novel. Other examples of the “nested narrative” or metafiction can be found in classics such as Don Quixote by Cervantes, Moby Dick by Melville, The Lord of The Rings by Tolkien and more recent books such as The Blind Assassin by Atwood and Fugitive Pieces by Michaels.

-Suzanne Summers LaPierre, Kings Park Library

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