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The Woman on the Stairs

A Novel

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Paperback
$16.95 US
5.18"W x 7.99"H x 0.66"D   | 9 oz | 24 per carton
On sale Feb 20, 2018 | 240 Pages | 978-1-101-91234-8
In a museum far from home, a lawyer stumbles across a painting of a woman he once knew, Irene. Decades before, he had become entangled in her affairs when he was called on to settle a dispute between her husband, who had commissioned the portrait, and the painter of the work—who was also her lover. When, ultimately, the lawyer fell in love with her himself and risked everything for her, she mysteriously disappeared—along with the painting.
 
Now, face to face with the portrait once again, the lawyer must reconcile his past and present selves. When he eventually locates Irene, he is forced to confront the truth of his love—and the reality that his life has been irrevocably changed.  A poignant, intricately crafted novel of obsession, creativity, and love, this is Bernhard Schlink at his peak.
“Spellbinding. . . . Runs on taut suspense.” —O, The Oprah Magazine 

“Has the grip of a mystery. . . . A satisfying ending . . . keeps the novel alive after the last page has been turned.” —The Washington Times

“At the heart of this terse novel is a love rectangle, decades in the past. . . . A chance glimpse of the picture in a gallery on the other side of the world leads to a series of reunions and examinations of male possessiveness.” —The New Yorker

“Elegant. . . . Exquisitely wrought. . . . Profound and moving.” —Buffalo News

“A page-turner. . . . Shine[s] a light on Schlink’s brilliance as a contemplative writer who, through simple prose and complex characters, mediates on life and all its challenges.” —New York Journal of Books

“Schlink, a professor of law in both Germany and the United States, writes with lawyerly precision, and his protagonist’s midlife search for meaning is thought-provoking and surprisingly tender.” —BookPage

“Flawlessly simple prose. Bernhard Schlink is a master. . . . His writing is understandable, transparent and intelligent. Seemingly effortless, he manages to create a variety of complex characters, tangled plots and moral dilemmas.” —Die Welt

“A gripping novel about what happens when life’s plans fall apart.” —Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung

“A daring, hugely emotional work of literature.” —News (Austria)

“[Schlink] has succeeded in writing a veritable thriller, which subtly and expertly intertwines perceptions of art and contemporary political events.” —Weser-Kurier

“Gripping and intelligent, offset with a good portion of thoughtfulness.” —Rhein-Main-Press

“Exquisite. . . . A profoundly moving meditation on how one’s life is affected by the choices one makes along the way.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A mysterious, character-driven, and history-enriched story. . . . Schlink’s prose captivates.” —Booklist

“[A] poignant meditation on recrimination and regret.” —Library Journal
© Gaby Gerster

Bernhard Schlink is the author of the internationally bestselling novel The Reader. He is a former judge and teaches public law and legal philosophy at Humboldt University of Berlin and at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. 

View titles by Bernhard Schlink
1
 
Perhaps you will see the painting one day. Long lost, suddenly resurfaced—all the museums will want to display it. By now, Karl Schwind is one of the most famous and expensive painters in the world. When he turned seventy, I saw him in every paper, on every channel. Still, I had to look a long time before I recognized the young man in the old.
 
The painting, I recognized immediately. I walked into the last court of the Art Gallery and there it hung. It moved me as it had when I entered the parlour of Gundlach’s villa, and saw it for the first time.
 
A woman descends a staircase. The right foot lands on the lower tread, the left grazes the upper, but is on the verge of its next step. The woman is naked, her body pale; her hair is blonde, above and below; the crown of her head gleams with light. Nude, pale and blonde—against a gray-green backdrop of blurred stairs and walls, the woman moves lightly, as if floating, towards the viewer. And yet her long legs, ample hips, and full breasts give her a sensual weight.
 
I approached the painting slowly. I felt awkward, just as I had back then. Then, it was because the woman who, a day before, had sat in my office in jeans, blouse, and jacket approached me in the painting naked. Now I felt awkward because the painting brought up what happened back then, what I’d gotten myself into, and what I had soon banished from memory.
 
Woman on Staircase, the label read. The painting was on loan. I found the curator and asked him who had lent the painting. He said he couldn’t disclose the name. I told him I knew the woman in the painting, and the owner of the painting, and that its ownership would likely be contested. He furrowed his brow, but again said he couldn’t tell me the name.

About

In a museum far from home, a lawyer stumbles across a painting of a woman he once knew, Irene. Decades before, he had become entangled in her affairs when he was called on to settle a dispute between her husband, who had commissioned the portrait, and the painter of the work—who was also her lover. When, ultimately, the lawyer fell in love with her himself and risked everything for her, she mysteriously disappeared—along with the painting.
 
Now, face to face with the portrait once again, the lawyer must reconcile his past and present selves. When he eventually locates Irene, he is forced to confront the truth of his love—and the reality that his life has been irrevocably changed.  A poignant, intricately crafted novel of obsession, creativity, and love, this is Bernhard Schlink at his peak.

Praise

“Spellbinding. . . . Runs on taut suspense.” —O, The Oprah Magazine 

“Has the grip of a mystery. . . . A satisfying ending . . . keeps the novel alive after the last page has been turned.” —The Washington Times

“At the heart of this terse novel is a love rectangle, decades in the past. . . . A chance glimpse of the picture in a gallery on the other side of the world leads to a series of reunions and examinations of male possessiveness.” —The New Yorker

“Elegant. . . . Exquisitely wrought. . . . Profound and moving.” —Buffalo News

“A page-turner. . . . Shine[s] a light on Schlink’s brilliance as a contemplative writer who, through simple prose and complex characters, mediates on life and all its challenges.” —New York Journal of Books

“Schlink, a professor of law in both Germany and the United States, writes with lawyerly precision, and his protagonist’s midlife search for meaning is thought-provoking and surprisingly tender.” —BookPage

“Flawlessly simple prose. Bernhard Schlink is a master. . . . His writing is understandable, transparent and intelligent. Seemingly effortless, he manages to create a variety of complex characters, tangled plots and moral dilemmas.” —Die Welt

“A gripping novel about what happens when life’s plans fall apart.” —Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung

“A daring, hugely emotional work of literature.” —News (Austria)

“[Schlink] has succeeded in writing a veritable thriller, which subtly and expertly intertwines perceptions of art and contemporary political events.” —Weser-Kurier

“Gripping and intelligent, offset with a good portion of thoughtfulness.” —Rhein-Main-Press

“Exquisite. . . . A profoundly moving meditation on how one’s life is affected by the choices one makes along the way.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A mysterious, character-driven, and history-enriched story. . . . Schlink’s prose captivates.” —Booklist

“[A] poignant meditation on recrimination and regret.” —Library Journal

Author

© Gaby Gerster

Bernhard Schlink is the author of the internationally bestselling novel The Reader. He is a former judge and teaches public law and legal philosophy at Humboldt University of Berlin and at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. 

View titles by Bernhard Schlink

Excerpt

1
 
Perhaps you will see the painting one day. Long lost, suddenly resurfaced—all the museums will want to display it. By now, Karl Schwind is one of the most famous and expensive painters in the world. When he turned seventy, I saw him in every paper, on every channel. Still, I had to look a long time before I recognized the young man in the old.
 
The painting, I recognized immediately. I walked into the last court of the Art Gallery and there it hung. It moved me as it had when I entered the parlour of Gundlach’s villa, and saw it for the first time.
 
A woman descends a staircase. The right foot lands on the lower tread, the left grazes the upper, but is on the verge of its next step. The woman is naked, her body pale; her hair is blonde, above and below; the crown of her head gleams with light. Nude, pale and blonde—against a gray-green backdrop of blurred stairs and walls, the woman moves lightly, as if floating, towards the viewer. And yet her long legs, ample hips, and full breasts give her a sensual weight.
 
I approached the painting slowly. I felt awkward, just as I had back then. Then, it was because the woman who, a day before, had sat in my office in jeans, blouse, and jacket approached me in the painting naked. Now I felt awkward because the painting brought up what happened back then, what I’d gotten myself into, and what I had soon banished from memory.
 
Woman on Staircase, the label read. The painting was on loan. I found the curator and asked him who had lent the painting. He said he couldn’t disclose the name. I told him I knew the woman in the painting, and the owner of the painting, and that its ownership would likely be contested. He furrowed his brow, but again said he couldn’t tell me the name.

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