Judith Hermann’s Summerhouse, Later

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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.

12GermansIn2016

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12 comments

  1. Yes, it’s hard for an author to make you care about characters in such a short space, but some can… pity you were a bit disappointed with this collection. I always say I don’t really like short stories but I do seem to read an awful lot of them anyway – when they’re good, they can give a bigger punch than a full-length novel…

  2. There are very few short story collections that I’ve read that have stayed with me, and have had me turning the pages the way I do with novels. However, I suspect there would be a lot more of them if I read more of them to begin with, so I don’t really feel like it’s fair for me to comment on them (even though I just did).
    You *have* made me wonder why Miss Gil is complaining about the lack of privacy in her bathroom…

  3. Interesting to read about your response to this collection as it struck a chord with me. Over the past year or so, I have been finding contemporary fiction (both novels and short stories) increasingly unsatisfying, so much so that I haven’t felt compelled to write about them – quite a few were book club reads rather than my own selections. I guess that’s why I’ve been gravitating towards modern classics of late.

  4. Well, you’ve got more memories of it than I have. it’s two weeks since I read it, and I can’t remember a thing – not even the images in your review. that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy reading it – the stories were fluid and well-written. i don’t have the book with me currently, so things might change once I’m back home with the book in my hands. Proper review to follow.

    • My expectations for this collection were pretty high, since it got such a great reception among literary critics. But unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed, even though the stories were truly well-written. I’m looking forward to your review.

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