Homecoming

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Homecoming

by Bernhard Schlink

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | January 6, 2009 | Trade Paperback

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Growing up with his mother in Germany, Peter Debauer knows little about his father, an apparent victim of the Second World War. But when he stumbles upon a few pages from a long-lost novel, Peter embarks on a quest that leads him across Europe to the United States, chasing fragments of a story within a story and a master of disguises who may or may not exist. Homecoming is a tale 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.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 272 pages, 8 × 5.18 × 0.59 in

Published: January 6, 2009

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375725571

ISBN - 13: 9780375725579

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– More About This Product –

Homecoming

by Bernhard Schlink

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 272 pages, 8 × 5.18 × 0.59 in

Published: January 6, 2009

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375725571

ISBN - 13: 9780375725579

About the Book

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

Read from the Book

Chapter 1 When I was young, I spent the summer holidays with my grandparents in Switzerland. My mother would take me to the station and put me on the train, and when I was lucky I could stay put and arrive six hours later at the platform where Grandfather would be waiting for me. When I was less lucky, I had to change trains at the border. Once I took the wrong train and sat there in tears until a friendly conductor dried them and after a few stations put me on another train, entrusting me to another conductor, who then in similar fashion passed me on to the next, so that I was transported to my goal by a whole relay of conductors. I enjoyed those train trips: the vistas of passing towns and landscapes, the security of the compartment, the independence. I had ticket and passport, food and reading; I needed no one and had no one telling me what to do. In the Swiss trains I missed the compartments, but then every seat was either a window or aisle seat and I didn’t need to fear being squeezed between two people. Besides, the bright wood of the Swiss seats was smarter than the red-brown German plastic, just as the gray of the coaches, the trilingual inscription “SBB—CFF—FFS,” and the coat of arms with the white cross in the red field were nobler than the dirty green with the inscription “DB.” I was proud to be half Swiss even though I was more at home with both the shabbiness of the German trains and the shabbiness of the city my mother a
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From the Publisher

Growing up with his mother in Germany, Peter Debauer knows little about his father, an apparent victim of the Second World War. But when he stumbles upon a few pages from a long-lost novel, Peter embarks on a quest that leads him across Europe to the United States, chasing fragments of a story within a story and a master of disguises who may or may not exist. Homecoming is a tale 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.

From the Jacket

"Homecoming, fueled by a mystery, is also a powerful meditation on justice, history, and the nature of evil. . . . Schlink has written another lean, meticulously structured, disquieting thought-provoker."
-Los Angeles Times

"A beguilingly oblique novel. . . . Despite its intricate, maze-like progression, Homecoming has surprising narrative thrust."
-The Economist

"Sensitive and disturbing. . . . The reader's mind opens to the story like a plant unfurling its leaves to the sun."
-The New York Times Book Review

"Plot twists and surprises and sometimes outright lies complicate the book's multilayered homecoming theme. . . . Schlink has woven a homecoming tale as fascinating as Homer's Odyssey, its inspiration."
-Seattle Times

About the Author

Bernhard Schlink was born in Germany. He is the author of the internationally best-selling novel The Reader, which was an Oprah''s Book Club selection. He lives in Berlin and New York.

Editorial Reviews

"Homecoming, fueled by a mystery, is also a powerful meditation on justice, history, and the nature of evil. . . . Schlink has written another lean, meticulously structured, disquieting thought-provoker." -Los Angeles Times "A beguilingly oblique novel. . . . Despite its intricate, maze-like progression, Homecoming has surprising narrative thrust." -The Economist"Sensitive and disturbing. . . . The reader''s mind opens to the story like a plant unfurling its leaves to the sun." -The New York Times Book Review"Plot twists and surprises and sometimes outright lies complicate the book''s multilayered homecoming theme. . . . Schlink has woven a homecoming tale as fascinating as Homer''s Odyssey, its inspiration." -Seattle Times

Bookclub Guide

Bernhard Schlink was born in Germany. He is the author of the internationally best-selling novel The Reader, which was an Oprah''s Book Club selection. He lives in Berlin and New York.

1. Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, called Schlink''s protagonist "a flawed character who elicits the reader''s understanding but not affection-until the poignant denouement." Do you agree with this assessment of Peter? Do you think Schlink wants his readers to understand but not like Peter? Why?

2. In what ways is Peter''s singular search for the truth about his father emblematic of the postwar generation of Germans trying to piece together what transpired during the war and afterward?

3. How is Peter both similar to and different from John de Baur? Why are both not completely satisfied with who they are? And how are their quests similar and different? Is history repeating itself, or has Peter learned some lessons from the past?

4. Reinventing identities comes easily for John de Baur, and later for Peter himself. Why do the men feel compelled to create new identities? How easy or difficult would it be for you to reinvent yourself? Why would you want to? Or why not?

5. What does the United States represent for Peter and for John? How is it both a positive and a negative place for the two men?

6. What is going on in the last section of the book, during the professor''s moral experiment in the abandoned hotel? What do the students, and Peter in particular, learn while there? What does the professor accomplish? Or do you think he fails?

7. Discuss the significance of the title. What does coming home mean for the various characters and, do you think, for the author himself? How was the reunification of Germany after forty years divided, a form of homecoming?

8. What is the allure of The Odyssey for the characters in the book? How is it connected to the pivotal pulp fiction book that Peter finds as a child in his grandparents'' house? How is The Odyssey connected to this novel, and to the recurring homecoming theme?

9. The professor''s book is even called The Odyssey of Law. Describe the professor''s "iron rule" philosophy and how it connects with his own odyssey, taking him from Switzerland to Nazi Germany to New York City and Columbia University.

10. In what ways is this novel both telling a story and commenting on the importance of stories in our lives? Discuss some of the stories in Homecoming-the military/historical stories of Peter''s grandfather, the poetry of his grandmother, the stories of Peter''s various personas, the pulp fiction his grandparents edited.

11. Describe the narrator''s voice. Is it appealing? Do you trust Peter as a narrator? Do you sympathize with him and understand his motives? Do you identify with him at all?

12. Why does Peter feel such a sense of duty to his ex-girlfriend''s son, Max? Having no father or children of his own, why does he want to be a father figure to Max?

13. Describe Peter''s relationship with his mother. As they both age, do you think they understand each other better? How is Peter''s relationship with his father''s grandparents, with whom he spent his childhood summers, different from that with his mother? Do they share more interests with Peter?

14. Why does Peter keep leaving Barbara and returning to her? Discuss their relationship. Why in the end is Barbara good for Peter . . . and different from other women he''s been in love with?

15. What are the differences between East and West Germany as shown in the novel? Why is Peter able to pretend to be a professor in East Germany? Do you think he would have been able to do this in West Germany?

16. What moral questions about Germany after the war does Schlink bring up in this novel? How does guilt, both collective and personal, play into the story? Which generation of Germans seems to be burdened with guilt? Do you think this generation also feels betrayed by the previous one?

17. Peter lies to get a teaching job in recently reunited Germany. He also poses as a historian to get into John''s class at Columbia. And of course, John lies and poses as various professions with various names throughout his own career path. What is Schlink saying about lies and lying? Why do his characters lie? And do they feel guilty about it?

18. In Homecoming, Peter often concerns himself with justice; in fact, he even writes his college thesis on justice. He is also obsessed with other''s, in particular John''s, views on justice and history. How do you think Schlink''s other career as a lawyer and law professor affect these meditations on justice, and the novel as a whole?

19. What is Schlink suggesting about the relationship between past and present, and between national and personal history?

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