Review: Homecoming

Homecoming Book Cover

Homecoming
By Bernhard Schlink
Knopf Doubleday
January 2009 (reprint)
272pp

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?

Source: Checked out from the library.

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17 Responses

  1. Sorry this was a disappointment, but I know it happens. Maybe the book discussion will help.

  2. I don’t like books that leave me confused. Please give us an update after your book club meeting.

  3. I have almost picked this book up quite a few times as I absolutely love the cover design. And still probably will as ambiguous is ok with me most of the time. :) Am curious what your book club makes of it.

  4. Not to make any judgements about your book club, but I’d guess that if you don’t get it, they probably won’t either. Not understanding drives me crazy. It makes me feel dumb and frustrated that I didn’t get some important message.

    • I thought of that Sandy but I am counting on one or two in the group to set me straight. I really thought I had a grasp of it, but now I think not. It could be that I missed something vital when I skimmed. I skimmed quitea bit with this one as it seemed to drag a bit.

  5. I’ve been known to skim even in books I like, but then if I can’t make sense of it after skimming, and don’t want to go back and read the skimmed part, I know it’s time to haul out the DNF label! :–)

    • Oh, the dreaded DNF label. I really liked Peter so I kept reading. I wanted for him to find what he was looking for. I think he did, but it was so weird at the end that it almost felt like a different book. I thought I had one too many Pimm’s Cups. Seriously.

  6. [...] 32. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson 33. Tinkers by Paul Harding 34. Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink 35. The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar [review coming [...]

  7. I’m not sure if I’ll listen to this one, but I do have the audio on the iPod. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ti

  8. I often find that if we discuss a book long enough at book club then I can figure out parts of books I didn’t get while reading it. Hope that’s the case here!

  9. That is a really cool cover though!!!

  10. I hate when a book isn’t working and you try to skim just to see what happens and that doesn’t work. I think I’ll pass on this one, as I thought The Reader was only okay.

  11. Sorry to hear this didn’t do much for you. I expected to enjoy this story after reading The Reader. But it just didn’t come together for me and I really can’t figure out why. It isn’t even that memorable to me now and I usually remember my reads for years. That doesn’t help you, I know. I hope you will enlighten us after the group discussion if that clarifies anything for you. I couldn’t tell from the comments whether you’d read The Reader or not, I’d be interested to know what you thought of that story if you did.

    • You know, The Reader was one of the few books that I gave up on. It didn’t click for me within the first 50 pages so I put it aside.

      As for Homecoming, it’s just like you said…it just didn’t come together for me either. It was so so disjointed there at the end.

      My book club pretty much felt the same way I did. A couple thought it was brilliant though.

  12. [...] I mentioned in my Homecoming review, I was a bit confused over the ending. Well, my book club met and they overwhelmingly agreed that [...]

  13. [...] Bronte 31. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson 32. Tinkers by Paul Harding 33. Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink 34. The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar 35. The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor [...]

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