What I’m Reading: A Romance Novel

More than a year ago, I stopped in to my old school to say hi to my high school English teacher (one of the few people from home that I stay in touch with). I was hungry for a new book recommendation. After hearing me gush about how amazing Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann was (we were actually reading the book at the same time), he handed over his copy of The History of Love: A Novel by Nicole Krauss.

I read over the back synopsis and wasn’t all that thrilled. I mean, I’m not so big on the romantic stuff and this is a book with the word “love” in the title… by some chick named Nicole. It hardly sounded gritty or compelling. And after reading the mini synopsis, I thought I’d already figured out the ending.

But boy was I wrong.

I picked up The History of Love a couple weeks ago (I’m a bit behind on my book reviews) and started reading. It was on my summer Bucket List and I figured it was about time that I read it and return the book to its rightful owner. After reading The Help, I was really feeling the fiction vibe and wanted to be swept up in another fictitious life.

Ultimately, The History of Love is, yes, about love. But it’s not a romance novel in the traditional, mushy meaning of the term. It’s a story about love and life and the minute, seemingly insignificant, interactions between people. It’s about love of self and love of words. It’s about the endurance of emotion and the unconditional love of family. It’s a twisting story that’s fragmented at first… like a million different puzzle pieces. But by the end, everything fits together in the simplest and most beautiful stories I’ve read in a long time.

Explaining the story is pointless because it doesn’t accurately capture the experience of reading it. Yes there are narrators and main characters and love. But the way Krauss fits it all together makes for a masterpiece of a novel. She communicates in such a way that is easy to digest and entirely understandable. And it’s not predictable in the least.

“Holding hands,” she writes, “…is a way to remember how it feels to say nothing together.”

Krauss’ words are like a Rothko painting; it’s easy to look at and think Huh, I could have done that. But the fact of the matter is that you didn’t. That’s why she is the artist.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, $17.
“Why does one begin to write? Because she feels misunderstood, I guess. Because it never comes out clearly enough when she tries to speak. Because she wants to rephrase the world, to take it in and give it back again differently, so that everything is used and nothing is lost. Because it’s something to do to pass the time until she is old enough to experience the things she writes about.”
Nicole Krauss

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