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Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink
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Homecoming (2006)

by Bernhard Schlink

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
this is a deeply philosophical work of fiction. i had a hard time getting through some passages, and sometimes had a hard time liking the protagonist. however, if philosophy is your cup of tea & you're looking for something similar in fiction, this would be a good pick. ( )
  cat-ballou | Apr 2, 2013 |
Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

A child of World War II, Peter Debauer grew up with his mother and scant memories of his father, a victim of war. Now an adult, Peter embarks upon a search for the truth surrounding his mother’s unwavering—but shaky—history and the possibility of finding his missing father after all these years. The search takes him across Europe, to the United States, and back: finding witnesses, falling in and out of love, chasing fragments of a story and a person who may or may not exist. Within a maze of reinvented identities, Peter pieces together a portrait of a man who uses words as one might use a change of clothing, as he assumes a new guise in any given situation simply to stay alive.The chase leads Peter to New York City, where he hopes to find the real person behind the disguises.

The Short of It:

I liked it, but I didn’t like it and if this brief statement makes absolutely no sense to you, then read on.

The Rest of It:

Homecoming is one of those novels that is a story, within a story. I usually love these types of books. A book about a book? I’m there. BUT, this one promised to be an adventure and for me, it sort of petered out halfway through. As Peter heads out on his quest to find the truth, the story starts to get a bit muddy and then I started to skim, and then I was completely lost. By the end, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what happened, but after thinking about it for a day or two, I realize that I really have no clue.

To his credit, Schlink’s characters are lovely. I liked them very much and felt as if I really got to know them. If it weren’t for the strong characters I probably would have given up on the book because it just didn’t grab me as much as I expected it to. The ending was very strange too. Almost surreal at one point. It didn’t seem to fit the rest of the story.

Homecoming is my book club’s pick for this month so I’m hoping that the discussion on Thursday will shed some light on what exactly happened there at the end. Have any of you read it? If so, what did you think of it? ( )
  tibobi | Jul 7, 2010 |
Might be good if I persevere but it is so melancholy......
  mairangiwoman | Feb 17, 2010 |
I didn't really enjoy this book. It had a strange falsity about it, as if the story were being manhandled into fitting Schlink's theme and structure.

At any given time there must be thousands of children orphaned by war. Sometimes it's the death of one or both parents; sometimes it's the exigencies of war that lead to brief or unsuitable romances or exploitative relationships. (Just last week, I read in the press about abandoned children born of liaisons between United Nations personnel and Timorese women). It's usually the woman left literally holding the baby, and so it is with Peter Debauer's mother. Peter grows up fatherless, but chance events set him off in pursuit of the father thought to be dead since the end of the war.

For more, see http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/the-homecoming-by-bernard-schlink-b... ( )
  anzlitlovers | May 15, 2009 |
Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink, translated from the German by Michael Henry Heim, is about one man's attempt to connect with his past. Because the narrator is German as is the author, it is tempting to look at the novel in larger terms, to make it the story of a people trying to connect with their shared history. It might be possible to make a good case for this position. The narrator, Peter Debeauer is raised by a single mother. He believes his father died in World War II. He is allowed to spend summers with his father's parents, Germans living in Switzerland, where he feels more at home, more a part of a family. His grandparents publish a series of books in German called "Novels for Your Reading Pleasure and Entertainment." After his grandparents die he begins reading them and finds a fragment of one unpublished novel particularly interesting. He becomes obsessed with it, researches its history, tries to find its author, to discover that the missing author is probably his own father. Few people he meets will tell him all he wants to know about his father. Even his mother is evasive when questioned. His father was a dedicated believer in National Socialism, a supporter of Nazism up until the end. What writings the narrator can find from this period are all justifications of Nazism and attempts to reinvigorate the spirit of ordinary Germans, who were already losing the war.

Are these parallels meant to stand for Germany itself and for the attempts of each successive generation of Germans to come to grips with what happened under Nazism and later under socialism in East Germany? It seems possible to me, but a more knowledgeable critic will have to provide a more conclusive answer.

The book is called Homecoming and this theme permeates each level of the novel. Peter, who is without a home, spends much of his time thinking about homecomings--the novel fragment his father wrote is about a man who escapes a Russian prisoner of war camp to return home and find his wife and child living with another man. Homer's Odyssey plays an important role in the story with its famous homecoming scene, the slaughter of Penelope's suitors. The reunification of Germany takes place during the course of the novel, perhaps one of the greatest homecomings in history. Towards the end of the book, when Peter leaves his wife and travels to America, he hopes she will wait for him like Penelope did, but he also fears he'll return to find her with someone else like the hero of his father's novel did.

Homecoming is a book with a lot of meat on its bones. If your book club is looking for something that will spark discussion, this is an excellent choice, as good as Mr. Schlink's novel The Reader. Peter's investigation into the unpublished novel makes Homecoming enough of a detective story to keep the pages turning and the panoramic view of recent European history the author presents provides a fascinating education for readers. There are many parts of Europe's history during the second world war that have still not seen the light of day. Homecoming presents several of them.

However.

I am not the first person to have a problem with the novel's ending. I won't describe exactly what happens here but I will say that I had a very difficult time buying it. In the end Mr. Schlink seems to want us to understand that we are all capable of evil, but the lengths he goes to to prove this point undermine his position. I suspect it is true that at a certain point, under certain conditions, people will probably do whatever they have to to stay alive. George Orwell demonstrates this in his novel 1984. While it may be true that a large majority of people who lived through the second world war, especially those on the ground where it was fought, committed acts they would normally have considered evil, it didn't start out that way. People began committing evil acts long before they had to in order to survive. The narrator's father is one of those people. He began advocating for National Socialism early on, a fact that the narrator never confronts and one that is only rarely confronted in fiction. ( )
  CBJames | Mar 13, 2009 |
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In mijn jeugd was ik elke vakantie bij mijn grootouders in Zwitserland.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375420916, Hardcover)

The first novel by Bernhard Schlink since his international best seller The Reader, Homecoming is the story of one man's odyssey and another man's pursuit.

A child of World War II, Peter Debauer grew up with his mother and scant memories of his father, a victim of war. Now an adult, Peter embarks upon a search for the truth surrounding his mother's unwavering--but shaky--history and the possibility of finding his missing father after all these years. The search takes him across Europe, to the United States, and back: finding witnesses, falling in and out of love, chasing fragments of a story and a person who may or may not exist. Within a maze of reinvented identities, Peter pieces together a portrait of a man who uses words as one might use a change of clothing, as he assumes a new guise in any given situation simply to stay alive.

The chase leads Peter to New York City, where he hopes to find the real person behind the disguises. Operating under an assumed identity of his own, Peter unravels the secrets surrounding Columbia University's celebrated political science professor and best-selling author John de Baur, who is known for his incendiary philosophy and the charismatic rapport he has with his students. Terrifying mind games challenge Peter's ability to bring to light the truth surrounding his family history while still holding on to the love of a woman who promises a new life, free of lies and deceit.

Homecoming is a story of fathers and sons, men and women, war and peace. It reveals the humanity that survives the trauma of war and the ongoing possibility for redemption.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:40 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A child of World War II, Peter Debauer grew up with his mother and scant memories of his father, a victim of war. Now an adult, Peter embarks upon a search for the truth surrounding his mother's unwavering--but shaky--history and the possibility of finding his missing father after all these years.… (more)

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