I chose this book after a recommendation by A Cup Of Joe. It’s her favorite book of all time, and her sentiments were echoed throughout the comments.
It was a lovely read and a book within a book for many passages surfaced from a book that old Leo Gursky thought hadn’t survived his escape from Poland to New York during World War II. The same book that inspired a young girl’s name and her quest to find the woman so loved.
“Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”
“…there are two types of people in the world: those who prefer to be sad among others, and those who prefer to be sad alone.”
“When will you learn that there isn’t a word for everything?”
“What about you? Are you happiest and saddest right now that you’ve ever been?” “Of course I am.” “Why?” “Because nothing makes me happier and nothing makes me sadder than you.”
“And if the man who once upon a time had been a boy who promised he’d never fall in love with another girl as long as he lived kept his promise, it wasn’t because he was stubborn or even loyal. He couldn’t help it.”
“…larger than life…I’ve never understood that expression. What’s larger than life?”
“I try to make a point of being seen. Sometimes when I’m out, I’ll buy a juice even when I’m not thirsty. If the store is crowded I’ll even go so far as dropping change all over the floor, nickels and dimes skidding in every direction. All I want is not to die on a day I went unseen.”
“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 to the bathroom. To reach the armoire to get a pair of underpants he ahd 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.”
“And it’s like some tiny nothing that sets off a natural disaster halfway across the world, only this was the opposite of disaster, how by accident she saved me with that thoughtless act of grace, and she never knew, and how that, too, is the part of the history of love.”
When I began reading it, I was afraid it would be along the lines of that other much praised book The Notebook. The love in this novel is of a selfish nature. I particularly hate the way the old man constantly tries to grope through his wife’s failing mind and bring her back to reality. That’s often the cruelest thing you can do to someone suffering from end-stage dementia. (I’ve worked with Alzheimer support groups and care for dementia patients.) Again and again he reminds her of what she has lost and missed. He does this just so he can have a few moments of holding a women who remembers him and loves him in his arms. And this is supposed to be romantic?
There is nothing melodramatic or maudlin about The History of Love, and that is the highest praise I can give to a book about love.