Date: 09 September 2001
Bernhard Schlink's book stinks. Combining a love story with a War Crimes' trial must have seemed like a cool idea. First section a statuesque cliche of laconic teutonic beauty takes on an adolescent as her paramour, second half she's in the dock for allowing a bunch of Jews to burn to death. But there is a reason, she's illiterate! Hitler perhaps had learning difficulties. Really our heroine is a moral paragon, it's the courts and her lover (and reader) that have the dilemmas. The problem with novels about ideas is that they rely on the ideas being clever. You wait expectantly for intelligence to become apparent as you plough through the plain prose and flimsy characters, but all you get is this absurd SS woman who can't read, and some unflattering portraits of ungenerous Jews. The point being I suppose that the moral world is complex, but you wouldn't know it from Schlink's stinking stereotypes.
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