Bernhard Schlink - Homecoming (2 stars)

Moral drama

Bernhard Schlink

A scrap of pulp fiction marks the beginning of a life-long journey for Peter Debauer in this personal account of a fatherless boy in postwar Germany. The fiction, which describes a soldier’s return, has mysterious parallels with Debauer’s own life and could have serious implications for his future. But this is just the flimsy framework in which author Bernhard Schlink, a practising judge and university professor, hangs his real fascination with ethics in law and justice.

As he interweaves historical and literary references, including a modern revision of Homer’s homecoming story The Odyssey, Schlink asks: can evil serve the purposes of good? Yet, while this is intellectually engaging, Schlink’s interminably dull central character and dry descriptions will leave the reader emotionally cold. For all the academia, the plot fails to be as clever as it thinks it is and Homecoming would do well to remember that other Greek achievement: drama. (Emma Lennox)


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