|Two vastly different stories run through The History of Love: teenaged Alma, who is simultaneously searching for the woman after whom she was named while desperately seeking a mate for her widowed mother; and Leo, a man at the end of his life, so consumed by the thought of leaving no trace behind that he makes great effort to be noticed. For some time these stories run alongside each other with seemingly nothing in common, as if you are reading two entirely separate novels. But slowly the details discovered by young Alma become the same details in Leo’s complex history, and suddenly the two stories merge into one elegant tale of love and loss.
The History of Love is a little clunky at times, but even this cannot diminish its beauty. And as the stories slide together, the book takes on momentum that holds until the very last page. It is a beautiful tale with a surprise ending that makes everything which has come before all the richer.
There are two types of people in this world: those who prefer to be sad among others, and those who prefer to be sad alone. (Here We Are Together, p. 155)
There were books everywhere. There were pens, and a blue glass vase, an ashtray from the Dolder Grand in Zurich, the rusted arrow of a weather vane, a little brass hourglass, sand dollars on the windowsill, a pair of binoculars, an empty wine bottle that served as a candle holder, wax melted down the neck. I touched this thing and that. At the end, all that’s left of you are your possessions. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been able to throw anything away. Perhaps that’s why I hoarded the world: with the hope that when I died, the sum total of things would suggest a life larger than the one I lived. (Die Laughing, p. 165)