Olga by Bernhard Schlink
Translated by Charlotte Collins
Olga is an orphan raised by her grandmother in a Prussian village around the turn of the 20th century. Smart and precocious, she fights against the prejudices of the time to find her place in a world that sees her as second-best.
When she falls in love with Herbert, a local aristocrat obsessed with the era’s dreams of power, glory and greatness, her life is irremediably changed.
Theirs is a love against all odds, entwined with the twisting paths of German history, leading us from the late 19th to the early 21st century, from Germany to Africa and the Arctic, from the Baltic Sea to the German south-west.
This is the story of that love, of Olga’s devotion to a restless man – told in thought, letters and in a fateful moment of great rebellion.
I was so moved by The Reader by Bernhard Schlink when I read it some years ago and still remains with me to this day. So I was delighted to have received a copy of Olga (W&N) in the post last month. I was so taken by the story of Olga who was an Orphan and her life in a Prussian village at the turn of the 20th century.
Bernhard Schlink remains one of Germany’s most respected authors and the poignant story of Olga is a compelling novel of hopes, love and dreams. Olga was brought up by her grandmother in Pomerania but it is a harsh upbringing and it is a story that that weaves through two World Wars. Olga has dreams of becoming a teacher and attends college to train. Soon Olga would meet and fall in love with the aristocratic Herbert. The two leading characters could not be from two different backgrounds. His parents vehemently are against their relationship but Olga wants to be with Herbert.
Herbert has another side to him and he wants to be the best and is a bit of an adventurer and travels the world and instilling his own arrogance but it is on an arctic expedition that he subsequently disappears in 1913. By now Germany is growing in its own self confidence and rising power across not just Germany but also across Africa.
By the end of World War II, Olga is in West Germany and is now deaf. But now she works for a family and raises their son Ferdinand. This becomes a lasting friendship and Ferdinand is surprised that on her death she leaves him something. But the story does not end here and we move forward a few years and it is what Ferdinand finds that confirms her devotion to the love she lost many years before a love that was doomed. So what does Ferdinand find? This you will have to find out for yourself.
Absolutely adored Olga and her story and devotion to a man with a wanderlust. Timeframes fly by in a blink of an eye but say and detail so much of the time. Bernhard Schlink is master storyteller and if like me you loved and have not forgotten The Reader then you must not miss Olga.
Thank you Alainna Hadjigeorgiou for the review copy of Olga by Bernhard Schlink.
Olga byBernhard Schlinkwas published by W&N on 12th November 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through Bookshop.org that supports your local independent bookshop. UK Bookshop.org