WordPress tells me that this is my 100th post – yet it feels like so much more than that to me! Surely there have been more than 100 books I have read since beginning this blog! Ahh… so many books, so little time.
Well, anyway, back to business. This particular post is about Bernhard Schlink’s Homecoming, which I bought in a nostalgic mood after seeing The Reader in film. I read and loved The Reader years ago in my early adulthood, and the film release just served to remind me of the genius of this work.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Homecoming quite sits in the same category. It tries to be a little bit too clever for its own good.
As a young boy, Peter reads a Homecoming story (an important part of German post-war literature; stories of what happens to men as they come home from war) but never finds out the ending. It strikes a chord with him, as his own father was supposed to have died in war before he was born. As an adult Peter takes up the search for the ending to the story, which also leads him in heavy-handed fashion to a search for his father.
Homer’s Odyssey is a big part of the novel (being the grandpappy of all homecoming stories) as are the various homecoming stories Peter finds in his search. In fact, the novel becomes less interesting when the focus shofts to his father rather than the search for the ending of the novel. A search which does not really provide me with a satisfying answer. Hey I like books about books okay! Thats why I like Carlos Ruis Zafon so much!
The storyline about the father meanders – Peter’s obsession is clear, but why his father needs to be such a complicated and dislikeable character is not. I can appreciate that Peter’s trip to America is his own Odyssey of discovery, but Schlink needed to pull it in and focus more on the point of self-discovery.
The ending is somewhat unsatisfactory, with less sense that the main protagonist has grown than expected by the events of the novel, but this is nonetheless a worthwhile read. Great references to German reunification.