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Thursday, January 31, 2008


A few weeks ago, John passed me an advance copy of Bernhard Schlink's novel Homecoming and mentioned that I might enjoy it. I had a couple books already in my stack at home, but John's recommendations have proved fairly reliable, so I gave it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised by Schlink's writing (and the translation work by Michael Henry Heim from the original German). The prose is natural and seldom sounds out of place in the English translation. Schlink is excellent at describing moments of common experience that generally go unnoticed.

My favorite part of the novel, however, is the layered construction of the story -- most importantly the protagonist exploring his family history through a novel published by his grandparents. Schlink weaves this theme of the ideas and beliefs that are encased in fiction throughout the story; you find yourself discovering the theme in moments of the story, instead of feeling as though the story is being dictated by the theme. The protagonist also returns again and again to the issue of inherited familial guilt, and wrestles with his inability to either deny or make amends for his ancestral evil.

This is a good read. Homecoming is going to stay on my bookshelf, and I am looking forward to picking up Schlink's first novel, The Reader, which was a Oprah Book Club selection.