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Critics of Bernhard Schlink’s bestselling “The Reader” accused it of being an apology for Nazi evil. His new novel covers many of the same themes, but takes pains to distinguish right from wrong

Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £14.99

Back in 1995, Bernhard Schlink published a little novel that was highly successful and highly controversial. The Reader told the story of a 15-year-old boy who starts a sexual relationship with a woman more than twice his age. In secret, they establish an after-school ritual that involves bathing each other, making love and him reading her stories. One day the woman vanishes. Years later, the boy—now a law student—discovers that his former lover used to be a guard in a concentration camp. When she is imprisoned for life, they resume their relationship in an indirect way—he records himself reading stories and posts the tapes to her.

The Reader, translated into English, became the first German novel to reach the top spot in the New York Times bestseller list and did well in Britain too; it is currently being turned into a film

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Philip Oltermann

Philip Oltermann is deputy editor of the Guargian's Comment is Free site and author of "Keeping Up With The Germans: A History of Anglo-German Encounters" (Faber) 

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