Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink was a book I picked up, along with The Reader & The Book Thief at Waterstones, in their 3 for 2 offer. When I purchased Homecoming it was with my Global Reading Challenge in mind, as my book for Germany. For some reason I was drawn to this novel (far more than to The Reader) & had really looked forward to getting to country # 66! (This was when I was still trying to read the countries in alphabetical order). Well, since I changed Rule # 3, I decided it was as good a time as any to dig it out & read it ~ kinda wish I hadn’t bothered!
Like The Reader, the blurb on the back of the book is what hooked me. It says “When thirteen-year-old Peter discovers an old manuscript in his family home it instantly captivates him. The manuscript tells him the compelling story of a German soldier’s homecoming after escaping from a POW camp, but the document is incomplete, and Peter is destined to not know the ending.
Years later, the adult Peter rediscovers the text and goes in search of the missing pages – but far from unearthing an ending, he finds himself at the beginning of a quest that leads him across Europe to New York City, to the mystery of his father’s disappearance, a love story, and the question of his identity…”
Now, to start off, Peter doesn’t discover the manuscript – he had always known it was there – his grandparents had given it to him, a cast-off from their publishing business, which they gave to him with the explicit instructions to never read it, that he was to use the back side of the manuscript as scrap. He always had the manuscript, he just never read it. So ok, I guess I am being pedantic, but don’t mislead me with your blurb!
I had real issues with this book! I just felt that the story was kind of preachy in this whole “Good versus Evil” – the whole is it possible that doing something that’s considered evil is actually good, if the outcome is good & is it possible that a good thing is really evil? Blah blah blah! I didn’t want a philosophy argument with my book, if I did, I’d enroll in a philosophy class at the local uni!
Which brings me to Homer’s Odyssey – which is discussed in depth in this book. If you have no interest in Homer, or his Odyssey & have little to no knowledge of Homer & his Odyssey, then this book might be a bit of a struggle. Schlink uses Homer’s Odyssey as the centrepiece of his book & tries to link a lot of the book to the Odyssey. As I have never read it (& I confess, I know of only 1 person who has & that is my OH), I found all of the sections which talked about the Odyssey very tiresome, difficult to comprehend & a bore to read & as a result I kept wanting to throw this book through my livingroom window!
It is such a shame because this book did start out very promising – discussing the relationship the young Peter has with his Swiss Grandparents, particularly his Grandfather & the things they get up to when Peter travels to Switzerland to visit them during his summer vacation. During one of these summers Peter befriends an Italian girl who is visiting his aunt & at the end of her visit a very strange thing happens & that kind of signalled the begining of where this book started falling apart. From there it’s endless discussions of Homecomings & trying to prove that good people do evil things & that evil people do good things, sandwiched between some mildly entertaining insight into Peter’s life. The ending of the book- the bit at the “retreat” – kind of sums this book up perfectly – a complete unbelievable mess!
I could go on & on about how much I hated this book, but I won’t bore you! I shall only say that if you like philosophy & want to read a book which attempts to have a philosophical argument, or are a fan of Homer, then, please read this book, otherwise, heed my advice & give it a miss!