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The Woman on the Stairs

3.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,484 ratings  ·  344 reviews
Das berühmte Bild einer Frau, lange verschollen, taucht plötzlich wieder auf. Überraschend für die Kunstwelt, aber auch für die drei Männer, die diese Frau einst liebten - und sich von ihr betrogen fühlen. In einer Bucht an der australischen Küste kommt es zu einem Wiedersehen: Die Männer wollen wiederhaben, was ihnen vermeintlich zusteht. Nur einer ergreift die Chance, de ...more
Kindle Edition, 241 pages
Published November 24th 2016 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (first published 2014)
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switterbug (Betsey)
A mergers and acquisitions lawyer in Frankfurt is asked by his firm, early in his career, to settle an odd dispute between an artist, Karl Schwind, and the wealthy businessman, Peter Gundlach, who bought Schwind’s painting, The Woman on the Stairs. This becomes an oscillating feud, with complaints that Gundlach defaced the painting and subsequently that Schwind cut it with a knife, as well as discord regarding the restoration. After we discover who the subject of the painting is, the plot progre ...more
For the first half I would have given it a 4. It's one of those "what's it all about Alfie?" puzzles or an allegory. I call these metaphysical and philosophy class fare with the usual Germanic cultural spins my "what's it all about Alfie" category. I'm sure some of you remember the song.

So the state of "human" here always carries the morose and linear "end" state forever in every second to minute stage of each individual's homo sapiens' cognition. Fatalistic spices are also heavily added by cup
Feb 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Once upon a time in Germany, three men begin an obsessive love with the elusive “woman on the stairs”, Irena – the business titan Gundlach, the famed painter Scwind, and our unnamed narrator, an M&A attorney who represents Schwind.

I’ve started this review in a fairy-tale fashion because for me, this book read somewhat like an allegory. The premise it spins on is developed in the first 25 pages: Schwind is commissioned as a painter for Gundlach, the subject being his much younger wife. The wife l
I'm half way through and I don't really care to finish. You could basically call this "There's Something About Irene". All of these dudes come after this woman because of how she makes them feel about themselves, not because they give a shit about her. The only satisfying conclusion I can come up with is if she burns down her house with all three of these douchebags inside. ...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Meh. Affairs and penis feels. Pass.
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm not quite sure what to make of this book. It was such an awkward start, with a young attorney involved in a ludicrous contract, falling immediately in love with a mysterious women. I had a very hard time buying into the storyline and never particularly liked the protagonist.

But there's something compelling about Schlink's simple and direct writing. I finished this in two sittings. And, in an unusual admission for me, this book finished stronger than it began.

Not sorry I read it, but I won't
Greg Barron
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Woman on the Stairs is very easy to read, with short, sharp chapters and nary a loose word from start to finish. I was half way through before I realised that I wasn't just reading a fast and easy mystery, but a work of genius. My only negative was a slightly unconvincing portrayal of coastal NSW, though he managed Sydney quite well.

I'm still thinking about The Woman on the Stairs, twenty-four hours after I finished it.
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-reviews
I love novels about art and artists, so Bernhard Schlink’s The Woman on the Stairs ticked all the right boxes for me.

But it is a book of two halves. The first reads like a psychological thriller involving the mysterious reappearance in Sydney, Australia, of a European painting (the woman on the stairs of the title) that has been considered missing for decades. The second is a more nuanced, gentler affair about caring for a terminally ill patient in unusual circumstances. How these halves come to
Chris Chapman
How comfortable are you with stereotypical characters? This appears to be the question Schlink is asking. The business magnate who can't accept that money can't buy everything, even the woman he is in love/obsession with. The controlling, ambitious artist, who can't let go of his pieces. The enigmatic, beautiful woman, drawn to these men who radiate power, and yet not allowing herself to be possessed. And most stereotypical of all, the love triangle that these people inhabit.

It might not matter
Gaby Meares
Apr 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
I found this latest book from Bernhard Schlink tedious. I had high expectations as I found The Reader so moving and profound. This is neither.
I did not warm to the un-named narrator, who was unappealing: self centred, pedantic, a borderline stalker and ultimately unbelievable.
The woman on the stairs, Irene, was never fleshed out as a real woman and was a barely veiled device to drive what little narrative this novel had. What was the point? If I want existential angst, I will return to a master
May 03, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: may-2018
Like many readers, I very much enjoyed Bernhard Schlink's The Reader when I read it quite some time ago. For some reason, however, I had not picked up any of his other books in the intervening years. The Woman on the Stairs, first published in German in 2014 and in English translation by Joyce Hackett and Bradley Schmidt in 2016, is described as 'a tale of obsession, possession and a mystery painting', and its description certainly intrigued me enough to buy it.

Just as mysteriously as a painting
Apr 25, 2017 rated it liked it
This book starts with a generous measure of vague purpose or direction that almost led me to abandon the book. But, doggone it, I had just recently abandoned at least 4 books I didn't have enough patience to read. This one had me guessing as to who would be murdered and why and how since it centers on the love of one woman by three very different men and very different types of love. So I kept on reading, wanting to find where the author was going with this strange plot. There was no murder, but ...more
Paula Dembeck
Dec 18, 2019 rated it liked it
The author of the best seller “The Reader” has penned another novel that displays his writing skills in a story that uses the relationship between three people and a painting to explore themes of morality, betrayal and blame. Irene Gundlach is the beautiful woman, Peter Gundlach her wealthy husband and Karl Schwind, the artist who painted her.

The novel opens as an unnamed narrator, a successful German lawyer having just completed a successful corporate takeover in Australia, catches sight of a
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
The early part of this novel by Schlink unfolds across two timeframes. We're there as our narrator comes across Woman on Staircase in the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The painting comes as a surprise as the last time the man saw it he was representing its painter and in love with its subject.

As a young lawyer in Germany, our unnamed narrator meets painter Karl Schwind and his mistress Irene Gundlach. Schwind's seeking access to the picture of Irene from Peter, Irene's estranged husband (who c
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xx2017-list
This was a strangely interesting novel; not at all what I expected.
Well translated and easy to read with many unexpected developments.
Charlotte Jones
I picked this up because of the synopsis before realising who the author was. A few years ago, I read Bernard Schlink's most well-known novel The Reader and enjoyed it, though some of the themes were a little out of my comfort zone at the time, so I was really excited to pick this one up. The synopsis contained several of my 'buzzwords', words that will automatically entice me to pick up a book: painting, mysteriously disappeared, isolated cottage, Australia, betrayal. 

This is one of the first b
Andrew Reeves
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This novel took some getting used to. It is not as lyrical in prose as Toni Morrison or Simon Van Booy. There is nothing overly remarkable about the way the story begins, except that Schlink chooses to have the narrator speak directly to the reader (I wonder why?) about a painting, an imagine of a woman, nude, descending a staircase. Schlink uses the painting as a catalyst to delve deeper into the lives of the four people affected most by it. The husband, Gundlach, who commissioned it, his wife ...more
Apr 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
It had a lot of potential in the first part of the book - a missing painting, a mysterious woman involved with three different men for varying reasons...but it never reached its full potential. Once into the second and third parts, I struggled to see the point of continuing the book.
Mary Keen
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-overdrive
Translated from the German, Excellent Reader
Interesting story --maybe more so bc I've been in several locations mentioned.

I think much could have been cut out--perhaps the author is so well-known in Germany that an editor wouldn't want to insult him.

Had to pay attention to the time gaps --and also the fantasy history the "narrator" made up near the end to entertain Irene.

imo, "the Narrator" treated Irene much better than she deserved.--and from his memories, better than how he'd treated his wi
Apr 06, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting read from the author of The Reader - a book I recall that I loved. This was about a woman from a painting called the Woman on the Stairs and her relationship with the painter, the owner, and the lawyer - a triangle of strange connections between her and these three men. It didn’t enthral me but I was curious about the plot and its eventual resolution when the painting appears after many years have passed.
Richard Newton
I was disappointed. After "The Reader" which I really enjoyed I tried this book, but was underwhelmed. The book has a clever, but rather contrived, story line. I did not like the main characters much, including the first person narrator. I have to admit it was a page turner, but I found the book just ran out of steam, as if the author had a great concept but could not quite manage to end it. Clever, but disappointing. ...more
Paul Sirokabrada
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found none of the characters likable, and kept thinking it would get better, but as soon as it got interesting, something odd would happen, but I kept at it. It is a short and fast read, but there is no real ending, I like a good ending, all my questions answered. A older man, goes seeking an old flame who tricked him and disappeared years earlier, you have to ask yourself, why?
Gail Thurston
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a sweet and sad story about a woman in a painting and the three men that were obsessed with her. They all had something to learn from her. I didn’t feel like I knew her very well but that was the intent I think.
Jan 30, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Completely awful, really inconsistent, and incredibly boring.
This book was translated from German. A man sees a painting of a woman he loved years ago and sets off looking for her. quite a story.
Apr 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting! Not quite sure how I feel. Liked the story but was a little hard to connect to.
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very European. Dreamlike atmosphere. Some moving descriptions of nature. But the characters just didn't engage the reader and the last part seemed drawn out too much. Disappointing. ...more
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author's condensed writing style left me wanting more, more description, more padding. It was certainly an easy, quick read, but I felt I was being propelled towards the end, with no time to linger. Unfortunately the story was a bit of a let down. What had I been expecting? I'm not sure, but I didn't find any depth to the plot. Just because you like one book by an author doesn't mean you'll like them all. ...more
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
I struggled to engage with this book, at no stage did I feel as though it was really going anywhere. That feeling stayed with me to the end.
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Bernhard Schlink is a German jurist and writer. He became a judge at the Constitutional Court of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1988 and has been a professor of public law and the philosophy of law at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany since January 2006.

His career as a writer began with several detective novels with a main character named Selb--a play on the German word for "sel

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