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Bernhard Schlink brings to these seven superbly crafted stories the same sleek concision and moral acuity that made The Reader an international bestseller. His charactersmen with importunate appetites and unfortunate habits of deceptionare uneasily suspended between the desire for love and the impulse toward flight.
A young boys fascination with an eerily erotic painting gradually leads him into the labyrinth of his familys secrets. The friendship between a West Berliner and an idealistic young couple from the East founders amid the prosperity and revelations that follow the collapse of communism. An acrobatic philanderer (one wife and two mistresses, all apparently quite happy) begins to crack under the weight of his abundance. By turns brooding and comic, and filled with the suspense that comes from the inexorable unfolding of character, Flights of Love is nothing less than masterful Flights of Love sees Bernhard Schlink build on the success of his international bestselling debut novel, The Reader, with a clutch of short stories that tell of the variety of love, distilled into seven splinters of narrative. The pick of the seven, the opening "Girl with Lizard," depicts a remote male character who fixates on a painting of his father's, which he is to discover, like his father, has a familiarly unsavory past, and which he is impelled to exorcise. In the book's centerpiece, "Sugar Peas," architect and amateur painter Thomas finds that his trio of lovers avenge themselves on his profligacy after he is left wheelchair-bound by an accident. "The Other Man" presents a widower corresponding with his dead wife's unwitting lover, and finding comfort through acquaintance. Less successfully, "The Circumcision" sees the pretext of a German man and his New York Jewish girlfriend to ponder huge, chewy rhetoric on the problems of reconciling the past, almost absentmindedly concocting an improbable denouement. Schlink too often presents scenarios rather than scenes, more intent on dislocated dilemma than language. In keeping with his legal training, he discerns lines of attack more suited to a drama, or perhaps a courtroom drama, than fiction. There can be no doubting Schlink's storytelling acumen or his undertaking to tackle the complicated identity of modern Germany. What is increasingly exposed, though, are the supporting mechanisms that too frequently serve to reinforce, rather than challenge, our assumptions with their didactic contrivance. --David Vincent, Amazon.co.uk
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