Thursday, January 26, 2023

The History Of Love by Nicole Krauss


Once there was a pair of Polish teenagers in love, Leo and Alma.  With the rumblings of World War II and Hitler's steady advancements, Alma's parents scrapped together what they could and sent her to America to be safe.  Leo stayed behind and wrote a novel he called The History Of Love which he sent to her in letters although he got nothing back.  Later, when the German soldiers came to his village, he fled to the woods and then lived off the land for months until he also made it to America.

Now, years later, the book has more or less disappeared.  The man who Leo gave it to for safekeeping did get it published but only a few copies remain.  David Singer was one of its readers and it resonated with him.  He used it in his wooing of his own wife and they named their first born child Alma after the Alma of the book.  Now David is dead and his wife has been asked to translate the book from Spanish to English.  As she works on it, Alma, who is fifteen, has a fantasy that her mother's work will bring the person paying for the translation to her and they will fall in love.  That doesn't happen but Alma will learn about love and what it means from this journey of exploration.

This book was published in 2005 and was a finalist for the Orange Prize as well as the winner of numerous literary awards.  The novel reveals the story slowly, doubling back and forth between the two time periods.  The reader slowly learns the story of Alma and Leo's love, the perfidy of Leo's friend and the way Alma Singer comes to understand what happened and what love can be.  As one reads, one experiences a sense of discovery and wonder at a love that endures and what one book can mean to so many people.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

No comments: