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Book review - Olga by Bernhard Schlink (translated by Charlotte Collins)

Bernhard Schlink’s latest novel   about an ill-fated couple is quieter, more reflective than his international bestseller The Reader. Olga, an orphan, is brought up by her aloof grandmother in Pomerania, where she falls in love with her aristocratic neighbour and childhood friend, Herbert. Olga dreams of becoming a teacher and educates herself in order to be able to attend the local training college. Herbert is an adventurer who yearns for vast empty spaces. His parents disapprove of their relationship and threaten to cut Herbert off from his inheritance if he marries Olga, while his snobbish sister conspires to have her transferred to a school in East Prussia: “the end of the world”. The couple carry on regardless, spending more time apart than together, as Herbert indulges his wanderlust until his disappearance in the Arctic in 1913. Olga remains in Tilsit, finding solace with her neighbours’ son Eik, who she regales with Herbert’s adventures, until the second world war drives he