On the flight back from Istanbul, I read Great House by Nicole Krauss. I thought it was a beautiful, amazing, and touching book. At the same time, it did not make me want to read her previous book, The History of Love. I'm not sure why. I think I didn't really know what it was about, plus I find her husband insufferable, not that disliking one's spouse's writing is a good reason to not read the work of a person whose current book is excellent. Still. When I visited my friend in Washington, DC a few weeks ago, she pulled The History of Love (THOF, from now on) off her bookshelf and insisted that I take it. "You need to read this," she said. I told her that I had just read Krauss's new book and loved it, thanked her for the book, and dropped it in my bag. On the train back to NYC, I read other things. I neglected to tell my friend it was on the bottom of my list of things to read.
Mere days after I got the book, another friend and I discussed the book I hope to write about my grandparents. "You know," she said, "you really should read The History of Love if you haven't already." She thought that it would help with with my story. As I like to say, "If two groundhogs agree, than it must be true." I resolved to read the book as soon as possible.
Thus on my way to visit my parents last weekend, I began reading THOF. The opening pages captivated me. I cried. I read faster and faster, hoping to finish the novel before I landed. I did not, so I snuck in the last 25 pages the next morning, reading super fast. I liked it, but I had a lot of questions. I felt it was less resolved than Great House, which I preferred to THOF as a result. I solicited people on Facebook to discuss the book with me. Another friend said somethings that confused me more. I re-read the second half of the book.
This is a problem I have a lot when I read something I am enjoying: I read too fast in my excitement to get to the answers. In THOF, I missed crucial bits of information. When I took my time to go over it this afternoon, I realized what I missed. The book is devastating and brilliant in how it all comes together.
Nicole Krauss is an amazing, talented author. I always felt that I was inadequate for not being able to write in a straightforward, linear manner, but her books follow different threads and characters and now I think that it is equally hard to tell a story that way and make it compelling as it is to get everything lined up and told in sequence. Good stuff.