An analysis of The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

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             Imagination is what forms the basis of any work of fiction. The various forms of fictions are vital in the process of writing a fictional novel for they give many insights about the message the author needs to convey to the readers. Nicole Krauss’s History of Love

is a novel that explores the various forms of fictions. Ingeniously Krauss has been able to fuse the different types of fictions to come up with one of the compelling novels to read. In this particular novel, he crafts the novel using romance and mystery. The book takes the general form of a story within a story (Janet,2005). It is via reading the story of the significant story the history of love that the characters can reflect on their personal past experiences about love. Each of the characters has a profound memory of the people they love dearly in their lives. Throughout the novel, the characters’ lives and actions revolve around the lost manuscript of the history of love. The first part of this paper illustrates the various fictional forms used in the novel whereas the second part delves into the elements of fictions employed in the book.

Romance fiction

            Romance fiction has its plot revolve around two main characters that are in love with each. Even though sometimes there are some subplots in the same novel, the main plot usually directed to the central themes in the book. The relationship between the two characters might sometimes end up being successful leading to a happy, or it may end in the tragic way leading to the characters dead (Murray, 2005). Furthermore, the romantic fictions have a stable love relationship. Arguably, the two lovers would have to go through a lot of hardships Nicole Krauss uses the character of Leo and Alma to depict the fictional romance in the novel. The relationship between the two lovers takes turns and twist that see them part ways in the wake of World War II (Krauss, 2004). Their promise to love each even after the war is over is thwarted after the Alma is sent to America by his father. She sees no future with Leo who apparently she thinks has died in the World War II. The unfolding of the events between Leo and Alma depicts a typical situation that is evident in the romantic fictions. Unlike most of the happy ending romance fictions that have two lovers part ways and later meet to live happily ever after, this particular one sees, Leo, the main character in the story within a story failing to meet with Alma, the girl she promised to marry after the Second World War. To add salts to Leo’s injuries, Alma tells Leo that she has a son, Isaac, who turns out to be Leo’s son. Throughout the novel, all the events emanating from the romantic relationship between the character of the Leo and Alma.

Mystery Fiction

            Mystery fictions premises on the strange turn out of events in a plot. Arguably, some of the peculiar circumstances lead to the development of the plot as the story unfolds. The History of Love equally has the mysterious disappearance of the manuscript to the novel history of love. The character Zvi Litvinoff apparently moves to publish the novel without Leo’s consent. Leo has been in much of the same manuscript for years after he gave it to Zvi Litvinoff during the Second World War. Another mystery that is evident in the novel is the character of Jacob Marcus. His introduction in the story further creates more mystery as he has a lot of money just to pay for the translation of the book privately. The mystery lies in the several questions about who he is, and what are his interest in the story. All these are questions that make the novel more mysterious about the character of Jacob Marcus. Moreover, the role of Isaac is a mystery in the book it is not clear of his birth father. Despite the fact that Leo is the birth father of Isaac. It is not all that clear to the reader as Isaac’s mother keeps it a secret until the time he meets Leo in America. Equally, the fact that Leo disguises himself as an invisible man living in the middle of the people he knew very well, including his son Isaac.

The Elements of non-fiction in The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

             Elements of Literature are essential in every author work for they are the building blocks of any fictional narrative. Without integrating the elements of fiction, then authors work would be a whole futile endeavour. Critical features of invention are Plot, character and characterisation, setting, language use and style, and themes. These are the vital elements in any composition that makes it possible for the author to render their story to their readers. Similarly, Nicole Krauss integrates these elements into his story.

Themes in The History of Love

            Themes are ideas that inform a novel. These ideas are the messages that the author of the book intends to put across to the readers. Themes are reflective of the various occurrences in life that emanate from human experiences in life. Arguably, ideas are the most critical element of the fiction work for they precede the whole process of writing. Nicole Krauss novel The History of Love has several motifs that are essential in conveying the general meaning of the story.

            Love is one of the major themes in the novel that gives rise to the overall plot development of the story.  There are several types of love in the book. However, the dominant love is that between Leo Grusky and Alma, in fact, the story begins with the romantic relationship between Leo and Alma. The plot equally develops plot equally develops from the relationship that sees Alma sent to the USA and later reuniting with Leo. Similarly, there love what makes Leo write the story within a story- the history of love. Apart from the significant love relationship between Alma and Leo, there is parental love between the Leo and his son Isaac. Though Isaac does not know that Leo was his father, throughout the novel, Leo is in pursuit of his son to show affection to him and have him see that he is his father, unfortunately, Isaac dies before he fathoms that Leo is his father. Most importantly is love is the unifying element in the novel.

            The theme of identity is significant since it cuts across all the characters who are trying to identify themselves. Leo undergoes a lot of identity crisis in the novel by concealing his identity. However, he feels lonely, and the urge to reveal his right to his son Isaac makes him want to let Isaac know that he is his father. Unfortunately, Isaac dies before he gets to meet him. Alma suffers from identity crisis too as she tries to find out so many things about her past and mainly who her father was.


            Loneliness refers to the feeling or condition of being in solitude distant from other people. In the novel, Leo feels that is he has no attachment to the people whom he loves so much. Primarily his decision to hide his identity from the Nazis to save his life in the past during the Second World War has now made a face a lot of regrets as he is psychologically disturbed to reveal his identity. Leo is depicted trying very much to make the people around him take note of his existence.


            The plot is the sequential unfolding of events in a novel. The storyline is vital in about the reader’s comprehension of the story. The relationship between the two starts at the time there are ten years old. There are several flashbacks in the plot from the time after Second World War to the present time. Their love life forms the main plot of the novel.  There are many other subplots in the story. The lost manuscript of the history of love forms a subplot, and Leo embarks on a mission to find where the script is.  The events unfold to the last chapter of the book where Leo Gursky dies, and he ensures that even though he dies there his name will remain to the memories of the so many readers who were not aware of his existence while he was alive.


            Setting refers to the time-space and the geographical in which events occur in the novel. In the book, the context covers a full-time span from the time Leo and Alma are young to the time they grow old.  Even though most of the events take place in the modern day Manhattan and Brooklyn, the storyline of the novel starts way back in Poland.


            Style refers to the manner in which an author renders the story to the readers. It involves mainly the language that makes author’s rendition of the story unique to fit their own story. Nicole Krauss employees some style in the novel. To begin with, he uses symbolism. Symbolism refers to the use of symbols to represent an idea, emotions thoughts, and qualities. In the story, many symbols are representative of views. After the death of Alma’s father, she put on his late father’s sweater for days. The sweater’s warmth is symbolic in the sense that it represents that father’s kindness and embrace. Moreover, Bird Alma’s brother laments he should not have discarded their father’s belongings “You should have asked me before throwing away my father’s belonging” (Bird, 14). Besides symbolism, Nicole employee imagery in his writing. Imagery essentially paints a picture in the mind of the reader to envision the events in the novel “The train left the city behind, green fields fell away to either side. It has been a long time since I’d been out of the city” (Leo, chapter2). Imagery is critical to ensuring that the reader can comprehend the story by drawing the mental pictures.

            The novel as well employees irony as a style. The irony is the use of ideas that are entirely contrasting to the expectations of the character or the readers. There are instances of situational irony where the Leo after concealing his identity in the wake of World War II now is struggling very hard to reveal his identity (Krauss, 2005). Moreover, it is ironical that he sends the stories to Isaac for publication yet the story is all about Isaacs’s life. Though Isaac himself is not aware, the irony in this particular case is dramatic irony.

            One of the essential writing styles that Nicole uses is his voice of narration in the novel. Voice of narrative or the point of view gives a perspective from which the story is told. There are various points of views that authors use to narrate their stories. Leo’s and Alma’s stories are in the first person point of view by using the first person pronoun the “I.”  There are many impacts of using the first person point of view is that it gives the reader a feeling of identifying with the characters’ lives in the story.  On the other hand, Zvi’s story is told from the third person omniscient. The third person omniscient uses the third person pronouns such as him, them, them, him and her. Though the readers are not attached to the readers, the narrator can reveal everything that is happening in the life of the character.

 Character and characterisation

            Characters are the fictional people who are a creation of the author whereas characterisation refers to the character traits that attributable to the ways the character is portrayed in the story. Essentially, characterisation emanates from the interaction of the characters with each other in the novel. Moreover, the author is solely responsible for the portrayal of the character traits in the book (Kennedy,2015). Leo Gursky is one of the leading characters in the novel also the protagonist. He is disturbed by so many experiences of past relationships that did not succeed in life. Another main character in the book is Alma who is a protagonist. One of the characters that are playing the villain is Zvi Litvinoff. He confiscates Leo’s original manuscript and later publishes it in his name. The novel has characters that are struggling with real-life issues that make it more appealing about plausibility and its believability.

            In conclusion, Nicole Krauss novel gives a fascinating insight of love experiences with a touch of nostalgia in most of the characters. Her ingenious fusion of elements of fiction amicably resonates with the real human experience that makes it striking to the imagination of the reader moreover corroborating the meaning of the book.


Works Cited

Janet, Masline. "The Story of a Book Within a Book."25 April 2005. New York Times. Document. 5 April 2018.

Kennedy, John. "Derek Jacobi replaces ailing John Hurt in Montreal-shot ‘The History of Love’."22 June 2015. Global News. Document. 5 April 2018.

Krauss, Nicole. The History of Love. New York: Norton & Company, 2005. Document.

            —. "The Last Words on Earth."09 February 2004. The New Yorker. Document. 5 April 2018.

Murray, Rebecca. "Alfonso Cuaron Takes on Directing Duties for The History of Love."21 January 2005.

Document. 5 April 2018.

November 24, 2023




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