The History of Love Essay - Critical Essays

Nicole Krauss

Critical Overview

Krauss received a lot of media attention when she published her first novel, Man Walks into a Room, in 2003. Critics wondered if her second novel would come close to matching her first.  It appears that they were pleasantly surprised.

Typical of the responses to Krauss's The History of Love is Booklist's Barbara Baskin’s assessment. Baskin refers to the novel as a "deftly written, often lyrical, and intricately plotted novel." Neel Mukherje, writing for London's Spectator goes even further. Mukherje effuses that The History of Love "takes one's breath away” due to "the way Krauss has braided the strands [of the story] together achieving an incandescent meditation on how the testament of writing to love might be the only possible salvation for the bruised lot of mankind."

Although much of Krauss's novel is based on the loss of love, Mary Brennan, for the Seattle Times, writes that it is far from melancholic. Brennan finds Krauss's novel a "powerfully bittersweet and engaging story [that] is far from dark or morbid. Instead, 'The History of Love' is a complex, funny, sad, elegantly constructed meditation on the power of love, language and imagination."

The History of Love is filled with questions, twists, and happenstance. Los Angeles Times critic Richard Eder points out that for this reason, it is difficult to write a quick summary. "To sum up the plot," Eder writes, "is to grasp a centipede by a half-dozen of its wriggling legs." Eder adds that Krauss's novel "zips through such webs of mystification that reading it alternates between astonished pleasure and a decoding so laborious as to make you suspect that the message . . . is less remarkable than the devices used to obscure it."

Ron Charles of the Washington Post also addresses the complicated plot of The History of Love: "It [Krauss's novel] contains a lost, stolen, destroyed, found, translated and retranslated book called "The History of Love," characters named for other characters, cases of plagiarism and mistaken identity, and several crucial coincidences and chance meetings that are all maddeningly scrambled in an elliptical novel that shouldn't work but does."