Having read ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ by Jonathan Safran Foer, I found out that he is married to Nicole Krauss and many criticisms levelled at his book were that his story was incredibly similar in themes and technique. I decided to read ‘The History of Love’ so that I could compare the two.
True, both stories feature an intelligent youth who sets out on a quest in New York City – both having lost their fathers. In Foer’s story, Oskar encounters a survivor of the Dresden firebombing and in Krauss’s Alma meets a Holocaust survivor. Both of the elderly men in the stories are mourning the loss of their estranged sons. However, for me, that’s where the similarities end.
Yes, Krauss and Foer may have lived together when writing these novels but there are thousands of books that feature people who lived during World War II. If you have a shared history, as partners often do, it is possible you could write about similar things. For me, Krauss’s novel is far more confusing in its attempts to weave a mystery. I enjoyed Foer’s novel immensely and found the characters easy to empathise with but with Krauss’s, I found the characters as confusing as the plot. Perhaps I just wasn’t concentrating.
I think Krauss was determined to use this novel as a vehicle to demonstrate her intellect and knowledge of writers but it just didn’t appeal to me. For a book called ‘The History of Love’, it lacked heart. I didn’t care enough about the characters and the disjointed narrative only distanced me further.
This book is meant to be about love, loss and friendship but it seemed to me to be about betrayal, confusion and insanity.
There are some genuine moments in the book where I had to stifle a giggle but all in all this book did not come close to ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’.
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