My review, originally posted here on Goodreads, for The Woman on the Stairs by Bernhard Schlink.
As the blurb on this book suggests, it is a novel about regret, lies, and perspective which lets the reader imagine the truth more than it is given. I won The Woman on the Stairs in a giveaway on Goodreads and had very few preconceptions about the book before reading, other than a sense that it was the kind of the book that I’d read the blurb of, think it sounded interesting, but not be drawn in enough to buy it. Though the blurb and some of the story focuses upon a painting, art, and creativity, the novel is more focused on life and time and what could have happened.
The narrator of the novel occupies a strange space as both part of the story and somewhat of an outsider, a character who has been not quite part of the action for his entire life it seems. This character and narratorial style are one of the defining things about the book, as you are given looks into his past and realisations about what he could or should have done differently, but also kept at a distance from him. The way that the novel reveals things about his life and also about Irene’s as he recalls his past with her and has to reconsider and find out things from her later on creates a gripping read even though there is not a large amount of action.
The Woman on the Stairs is most suited to people who enjoy mediative books that involve characters looking back on the past, but also learning a few things about the present. Its short length and tendency to hold things back from the reader make it good for reading in a short space of time and then thinking about it afterwards.