by Nicole Krauss
W.W. Norton, 2005
“Ingenious” says the New York Times on the front cover of The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. This novel reminds me of Kafka on the Shore (but not quite as psychedelically weird), but it is once again a story woven of apparently separate stories which in the end form a whole. And in this case – if you can suspend the need for a logical, orderly plot – you come up for air at the conclusion with a poignant understanding of the resiliency of love.
The love story begins, long ago, between a young Jewish girl and a young Jewish boy and a manuscript written in desperation – trying to preserve in words the feeling of love. The manuscript and the girl and the boy will be separated, crossing vast oceans of time and distance. The wonder of the novel is how their love ripples out, nourishing young lovers in ever widening circles.
Krauss experiments – with pages blank for all but a few words (not many, yet significant when they do appear), with sentences in capitals that shout with emotion and with a plot that simply could not have happened. And yet…we hope it did.
The paperback edition boasts six pages of recommendations from periodicals and authors including J.M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Berg and Myla Goldberg. To these names I can add the recommendation of my daughter Nicole who loaned me the book, and Craig Hoeksema as well (so this one appeals across gender lines.) And of course my own. The New York Times is right – this novel is ingenious.
And I note there is a reading group guide available at www.wwnorton.com/guides!