The truth is, as a character in this provocative new collection puts it, "passionate, beautiful, and hideous, it can make you happy and it can torture you, and it's always liberating."
In "After the Season", a man of humble means falls quickly in love with a woman belonging to a much elevated financial status and wrestles with his feelings and his beliefs about the rich. A son takes his distant father to a Bach festival in "Johann Sebastian Bach on Ruegen" only to learn that perhaps he was the one who was never really present in their relationship. And in "The Night in Baden-Baden" a man who's caught in a lie changes his ways - by sleeping with another woman only after being accused.
Although I do not usually read collections of short stories, I have read two of the author's novels, Homecoming and The Reader, and I did not want to miss any new fiction from Bernhard Schlink. Each of the selections in Summer Lies is really a novella, rather than a "short" story. A couple of the early selections seem somewhat incomplete or unresolved, as if they were meant to be only portraits of a particular character and his shallow relationship with his wife or lover. The later selections are much more satisfying, exploring relationships that are much more complex and moving. I particularly like the last three selections, all which deal with much older characters, both men and women, who are confronting end-of-life emotions, while trying to define who they are, how they have lived, the life-altering decisions they made, and their relationships with parents, spouses, children, and grandchildren. The last two selections are particularly intense: a man trying to reconcile with his 82-year old father, with whom he shares only one passion, the love of the music of Bach; and the story of a woman living in an assisted-living facility who has fallen out of love with her children and grandchildren, but leaves on a trip, accompanied by a grown granddaughter, to revisit the town in which she attended university, more than fifty years earlier. This relatively short audiobook (about 8 hours long)is well worth the reading just for the very best of these selections. The rest is intro and bonus!
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