On balance, I’d say this was a successful novel, and I’d like to read more by Krauss, particularly her first book, Man Walks Into a Room. Krauss, who is married to Jonathan Safran Foer, is telling the story of Leopold Gursky, a Pole who fled to America and lost his family. The love of his life, Alma, preceded him but, thinking him dead, has remarried, giving their son a father. Meanwhile, a youthful book by Gursky, was carried to Chile by Gursky’s friend and then published under his name. That book, also called The History of Love, features a woman named Alma, and that name is given to Alma, the daughter of Charlotte and David Singer who are enchanted by the book. The young Alma tries to figure all of this out in a search/quest that is not unlike that of the narrators of Foer’s two novels. Like those characters, she is searching for someone who may or may not exist and who is the key to the puzzle.
"My son's mother, the girl I fell in love with when I was ten, died five years ago. I expect to join her soon, at least in that. Tomorrow. Or the next day. Of that I am convinced. I thought it would be strange to live in the world without her in it. And yet. I'd gotten used to living with her memory a long time ago. Only at the very end did I see her again. I snuck into her room in the hospital and sat with her every day. There was a nurse, a young girl, and I told her--not the truth. But. A story not unlike the truth."
I had been told that this novel was “sad,” and I suppose it is. Leo has lived alone, without Alma, his whole life, but he has had the joy of watching his son grow up. His life’s work is plagiarized, but he comes to understand its impact. So, yes, there is sadness, but I think the conclusion of the book is that Love exists and it survives, and that’s a good thing.
Here is a more complete review of The History of Love in New York Magazine. And here is an interview with Krauss in Small Spiral Notebook.