The History of Love

The History of Love


Nicole Krauss, 2005, W.W. Norton & Company

With Valentine’s Day approaching, love is in the air and on peoples’ minds.  As a therapist, I notice that December through February is my busiest time of year.  February, not surprisingly, is a month when clients in therapy want to talk about love.  As a big believer in bibliotherapy — the process through which reading a psychologically relevant book at the right time can become a catalyst for change — I am prescribing Nicole Krauss’ 2005 novel, The History of Love, to a number of therapy clients this month.

Krauss manages to tell an unbelievable tale of romantic true love, heartbreak, betrayal and mystery that becomes all the more believable with each turning page.  Her writing is at once engaging, hilarious, devastating and bold.  Her insights and power of description give readers the chance to lose themselves in a tale of true love that rejects fairytale romance in favor of the cruel realities of true life.

<span “font-size:13.0pt;font-family:helvetica;=”” mso-bidi-font-family:helvetica;color:#363636;mso-fareast-language:ja;=”” mso-bidi-font-style:italic”=”” style=””>(When published, reviewers tended to compare the novel to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close written by Krauss’ husband, Jonathan Safran Foer.  The couples’ separation last year was also a subject of media intrigue.)

The truth is a recurring theme in The History of Love and is written about with creativity and depth:

He learned to live with the truth.  Not to accept it, but to live with it.  It was like living with an elephant.  His room was tiny, and every morning he had to squeeze around the truth just to get into the bathroom.  To reach the armoire to get a pair of underpants he had to crawl under the truth, praying it wouldn’t choose that moment to sit on his face.  At night, when he closed his eyes, he felt it looming above him.

Krauss’ preference for the truth over fantasy is one of many potent psychological strengths of this riveting essay on romantic love, tragic loss and the endurance of the human spirit.  If you are craving a romance novel this Valentine’s Day and you are tired of formulaic, predictable fairy tales, The History of Love will not disappoint.

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Elisabeth LaMotte

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