“Summer Lies” is a collection of seven touching, and sometimes even heartbreaking, short stories by German author Bernhard Schlink. In this collection, Schlink closes the gap between continents as he uncovers the lies that plague the human race. Each story pulls the reader into the life of a regular Joe, unraveling a web of lies and deceit along the way.
Although each tale is exceptional, there are three that stand out within the collection. The first is “The Night in Baden-Baden.” In this story, a man tells a little white lie to keep his girlfriend happy. When he gets caught in his lie, it spirals out of control.
In “The House in the Forest,” probably the most agonizing story in the collection, a man tries to preserve the happiness of his family by sheltering them from the outside world. As his lies compound upon one another, he begins to go a little crazy similar to Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Shining.” Schlink captures the emotions of the man who was only able to achieve “happiness tinged with anxiety,” always waiting for his deceptions to surface, and only wanting to spend time loving his family.
“The Journey to the South” uncovers awful truths and indestructible lies that taint the last years of an old woman’s life. She lives a lie for so long that even she begins to believe it is the truth. The old woman has so much resentment for her husband and her life that she ceases to love her own children. She believes “love isn’t a matter of feeling, it’s a matter of will,” and she no longer has the will.
Seven tales and hundreds of lies, each one told out of love, protection or reassurance. Each fabrication spiraling out of control only to ruin lives and instigate heartache. Schlink provokes emotion in reality. There is no romance, no adventure, and no mystery. There is only reality, and it can be sweet, yet harsh, and ultimately unforgiving.