Selected Edition: Paperback
No. of Pages: 252
SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORANGE PRIZE FOR FICTION 2006
I had heard good things about Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love and it had been on my To-Be-Read list for a while, so when I stumbled across it last week in my local Oxfam bookstore I grabbed it greedily off of the shelf. I was not disappointed. In fact, I think it might be one of my favourite books of the year so far, and that it has changed the way that I feel about reading and writing. But first, what is the story of The History of Love?
In New York, Leo Gursky, a Polish immigrant is living each day as it comes, trying to survive in a lonely world, spending his days going out just in order to be seen and prove to himself that he still exists in the world. He passes the time thinking about his first and only love, Alma, and desperately trying to hold on to anything that connects the two of them.
Meanwhile, Alma Singer, a fourteen-year-old girl is trying to deal with her own loneliness and grief after losing her father, and help her mother through her grief. She spends her days researching how to survive in the wilderness, keeping her father alive in her memory as he had been a bit of an adventurer. Her brother, Bird, is losing himself in Jewish religion and clinging to a janitor as a replacement for the father he barely knew.
Alma’s mother is a translator and has recently received a request to translate a book called The History of Love, written originally in Spanish by a Polish writer living in Argentina. The book had been given to her by her husband in the first days of their relationship and feeling a special sentimental attachment to it, she agrees. What follows are stories of lives that intersect and influence each other, leaving behind a trail of coincidences, contradictions and fictions.
The past few weeks have been very quiet on the blog front. I have been reading but I have been a bit all over the place, dipping in and out of poetry, short stories and a couple of novels. I thought I’d do a little summary of my reading in the past few weeks as I haven’t done a review for a little while.
To begin with, I spent a couple of weeks reading The Group by Mary McCarthy. It’s my first book club read so I’m waiting to discuss it with my fellow bookclubbers before commenting on it on my blog. What I will say though is that I enjoyed it, and was surprised by its frankness on certain women’s subjects, which even by today’s standards aren’t that easy to come across in popular fiction. More on that in a couple of weeks…
Anne Robinson on the My Life in Books couch
Recently I have been confined to my house for health reasons and have been mainly watching My Life in Books, a BBC series presented by Anne Robinson which features various famous faces talking about books which have influenced them in their lives. It has been entertaining for several reasons. Firstly, it satisfies the need in me to talk about literature and discover new books to read. Since watching this programme I have been on a feverish quest to make a list of every book I want to read EVER. It is growing daily; one book will lead to another which leads to another. It will take me years to read them all, and there are some of them that will probably never even make it onto my bookshelf.
Another reason it has been interesting is learning about the lives of famous faces. I’m not talking about your average celebs, I’m talking about authors such as P.D James (or to give her full title, Baroness James of Holland Park) and Jeanette Winterson, the Duchess of Devonshire (Debo, youngest of the infamous Mitford sisters), the editor of British Vogue Alexandra Shulman (who it turns out had quite a bohemian start in life before adopting her now tee-total lifestyle), the two people who were on with their rich heritage (actress and what’s his face who had connections running back), and actresses Natascha McElhone and Anna Chancellor. There are male guests too of course, Keith Allen, Richard Bacon, Dan and Peter Snow, Sir Trevor McDonald and Nicky Haslam, so all in all quite a varied selection that makes it interesting watching, even if books aren’t quite your thing.
I also find it fun to play a little game whilst watching the programme. The rules are simple: count the number of times that Anne Robinson utters the word ‘meanwhile’ during the show. I counted six in one particular episode! I thought it would make a great literary drinking game but as I am off the devil’s drink at the moment I had to make do with swallies of tea instead… Fun nevertheless. Coincidentally, ‘nevertheless’ is an example of a different linking word Anne could have used to shake things up a little. “At the same time” or “Elsewhere in the country/world…” would also have been excellent alternatives. Maybe I should take up scriptwriting…
Anyway! The point of this post is that the programme got me thinking about which books have influenced my life so far. I’m only 23 though so I’d like to hope that I still have three quarters of my life to go… So shall we say, My Quarter-Life in Books? I think that would do as a starting place.