I’m running out of time to write about my February selection for 12 Germans in 2016. That’s mostly because I’ve been unable to decide what or how to write about Judith Hermann’s Summerhouse, Later. There are always two issues with short story collections. First, they are short stories, so there is less time to get acquainted with the characters, and second, the strength of the overall collection relies on the stories it contains.
I can’t honestly say that I truly connected with the stories individually. I never felt particularly close to the characters, and I didn’t feel there was much to think about in each story. That is a “problem” I often have with contemporary writing; it is not something that is unique to this particular book.
However, each of the nine stories has left an image in my mind. I can see the broken red coral bracelet on the blue rug; I can see Sonja standing on the train tracks while a train is fast approaching; I can see Miss Gil complaining about the lack of privacy in the bathroom. So in hindsight, I think the book left a deeper impression than I originally realized.
Also, the regret, disappointment, and isolation that follow many of the characters are easy to recognize and relate to in the context of each story. While most of the stories take place in Berlin, I don’t think the characters are unique to Berlin or Germany. They are universal, and in that respect, the stories are very accessible. In addition, I found the writing to be clear, straightforward, and enjoyable.
In short, it is a collection that is worth checking out, even though I did not find the emotional connection I like to have with my books.