Olga by Bernhard Schlink. Translated by Charlotte Collins

Published: 2020. First published in German in 2018. 1. First lines. 2. Cover: Hachette 3. Young shepherdess [Public Domain] via Wikimedia 4. Prussian village [Public Domain] via Picryl

This is the life story of Olga is orphaned in the late nineteenth century, and goes to live with her grandmother in Prussia. She grows up to be an independent woman studying to become a teacher, and falls in love with Herbert, an aristocrat’s son. Olga is not accepted by Herbert’s family, and his restless spirit leads him away from her for long periods of time. The last part is in the form of Olga’s letters to her missing husband, and this is where her deepest feelings are revealed.

“History is not the past as it really was. It’s the shape we give it.” 

BOOK SNAPS: The author has skilfully developed the character of Olga in three parts, each with different points of view. As Publishers Weekly says “Readers who love rich character studies will want to pick this up.” But there is disagreement from KirkusA historical novel about a mismatched couple spends too little time with its most interesting character. The novel covers more than a century, and its swathes of historical exposition take the reader away from Olga.” For me, it didn’t feel like “swathes of historical exposition”, but a necessary part of building context around the character of Olga. I found this to be a very satisfying read, and not “too predictable to truly satisfy.” Guardian.


“Is this what he wanted to tell her? That he was setting off to be snatched away in the bloom of life? Was he not intending to cross Nordaustlander at all; did he have bigger plans? Was he actually going to attempt the crossing of the North-East Passage, or the conquest of the North Pole? Would he not return before the start of winter?

Author: Bernhard Schlink

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