cover image Summer Lies

Summer Lies

Bernhard Schlink, trans. from the German by Carol Brown Janeway. Pantheon, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-307-90726-4

Most of the seven short stories in Schlink’s eloquent and profound second collection are thematically bound by the protagonists’ titular distortions. “The day she stopped loving her children was no different from other days,” opens “The Journey to the South,” which finds Nina, an elderly divorced woman, traveling to look up her old lover, Adalbert Paulsen, who confronts her about the lies behind their breakup years ago. In “The Last Summer,” retired professor Thomas Wellmer assembles his family, his “components of happiness,” one last time before a planned suicide due to the increasing pain of terminal cancer. His wife discovers the lethal cocktail bottle, and he’s forced to reveal his plan to the whole family—with surprising results. In the somewhat lighter “The Night in Baden-Baden,” a playwright is falsely accused by his longtime girlfriend of having an affair. Bereft after this shocking, and violent, accusation, the playwright has a tryst with a waitress, fulfilling his girlfriend’s fears, in what may be the gem in a generally top-notch collection from Schlink (The Reader). (Aug.)