BBC Radio 4

Society & Culture

Led by James Naughtie, a group of readers talk to acclaimed authors about their best-known novels


Nicole Krauss - The History of Love

June 5th, 2011

Episode 316 of 438 episodes

James Naughtie and readers talk to American writer Nicole Krauss, shortlisted for this year's Orange Prize. Our chosen novel is her critically acclaimed The History of Love. It's a complex tale of loss - a lost manuscript, lost homelands, characters grieving for lost loved ones. There are four separate narrators who are all drawn to the lost book - also called The History of Love. Leo Gursky is at the end of his life, tapping his radiator each evening to let his neighbour know he's still alive, drawing attention to himself at the local coffee bar. He doesn't want to die on a day when no-one has seen him. As a young man Leo wrote The History of Love in pre-war Poland. Although he doesn't know it, the book also survived, crossing oceans and generations and changing lives. Fourteen-year-old Alama was named after a character in that book, and lives across New York City from Leo. She and her little brother, who thinks he is the Messiah, are recovering from the loss of their father. The starting point for writing the novel was the story of her grandmother, who came to England as a chaperone on the Kindertransport, and lost all her family in the Holocaust. She had fallen in love with a young doctor, whom she had also presumed dead. Forty years later, he wrote to her grandmother from South America. Nicole's History of Love is like a jigsaw, where all the pieces come together at the end - and she talks about how she has no preconceived idea about where the story will end as she begins. Nicole likens it to being a traveller in a foreign city, walking from street to street, finding her way. July's Bookclub choice : 'The Music Room' by William Fiennes. Producer : Dymphna Flynn.

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