Friday, May 29, 2009

The History of Love

I read this last week when I was on vacation. I had just finished The Golden Compass and wanted something fairly short as a palette cleanser before starting The Subtle Knife. I liked The History of Love a lot, but I never loved it. In thinking about what to write now, I recognize elements that I loved, characters who were well drawn, and ways that it should have really worked. And in looking back, I think that it did really work; I just never felt emotionally moved for some reason.

The book tells the unlikely story of several tenuously connected characters and how a book about love binds them together. There’s Alma, a 14 year old girl who misses her deceased dad, worries about her religious-nut little brother, and wants her mom to stop being so lonely. There’s Leo Gursky, an old man who lives alone with only his old friend Bruno for company, who has lived a romantic half-life since surviving World War II. Leo, especially, is heartbreakingly well depicted, and his story, the story of the book within the book, and the stories of all the other characters come together in what should be a moving if unlikely way.

I wish I could understand why, but I like this book so much more in retrospect than I did while I was reading it.