Cover Image: Olga

Olga

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this was a pretty good book just not 5 star material. i would recommend reading it if ur interested:)
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Thank you to Harpervia and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Separated into three parts, Olga’s story begins in very early childhood and spans the length of her life. Steeped in isolation and loneliness, this is a beautifully written, melancholic story of one woman’s love in all of its forms- familial, romantic, and platonic. 

While the book itself feels slow and contemplative, the plot moves rapidly through the years of Olga’s life. The author masterfully captured the ability of time to feel at once fleeting and agonizingly infinite when perceived through the lens of a lonely life.

Olga is a unique and finely crafted novel that will stay with me for a long time.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an ARC of Olga by Bernhard Schlink. I am giving an honest review.  I asked to read this book because of having read The Reader which I thought was a brilliant book.  I was not disappointed.  Mr. Schlink has a very direct form of narrating a tale and it builds in development and I did not want this story to end.
It is told in three parts; Part 1 narrates the story of Olga as a young child to adulthood.  she falls in love with someone who is not of her class and because of the times, they cannot marry.  He, Herbert, however, was always interested in the great beyond, in adventure, in going places. This side of him was allowed free as he was thwarted in love.
Part 2 is narrated by a young boy in a family that Olga becomes close to after her health deprives her of her chosen profession.  He is fascinated by her, her story, and her stories of Herbert, She is always kind to him and in the end, leaves what little she has to him when she dies.
Part 3 is all the letters Olga wrote to Herbert over the years. 

There is both a deep sadness when finishing the book as well as a satisfaction of having come full circle.
The writing, as I said earlier, is direct, with no unneeded emotional words to tug at heartstrings.  Mr. Shlink's skill with words and putting sentences together do the job of drawing the reader in, making us care what happens next although it is a world that is in the past.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loved The Reader.
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Emotional  moving so well written .The characters come alive I was drawn right into their lives stories time in history.I will be recommending this book.#netgalley #harpervia
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In Schlink’s previous release, the reader, we find the story of a woman during world war 2. 
This book takes us from the birth of the 20th century through the end, following the life of Olga, whose life hides secrets, lies, and surprises for the reader. Touching, fascinating, and thought-provoking, this book creates a world and relationships that are relatable and sweet. 
Olga is orphaned as a young girl and spends her youth making friends with a young aristocrats named Herbert. However, as time passes, their friendship progresses and they become more than friends. However, both Olga and Herbert are unhappy with the status quo and both seek bigger and brighter pastures. Olga, in the form of finding her way to teaching school, and Herbert, through adventuring. I knew very little of the time and area in which the book took place but I was absolutely transported. Please give this enchanting and concise book a chance, you absolutely won’t regret it. 

This ebook was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank you NetGalley, HarperVia and Author for giving me the chance to read this inspiring book! 

I loved this book. It was a slow burner but I just like the way Bernhard Schlink builds a story and sucks in his reader. Read in a day, I couldn’t put it down. It was beyond beautiful and heart warming! 
Rich in detail, beautifully written and hugely absorbing for those who enjoy good historical fiction.
Olga is a strong feminine character, brave, encouraging! I adored her! 
The story itself was amazing! The entire book had me hooked from the start. Schlink's style is unique and I truly enjoyed it!.

Again thank you for the opportunity to read this outstanding novel!.
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This was quite a surprisingly good read, not sure what I expected but it totally surpassed my expectations. The story is basically told in three different sections, we start with Olga and follow her life, her love for Herbert and how she survived on her own. Her devotion to teaching and dedication was admirable. 
Then we switch to “the child”, he meets her when she comes to work for his mother and father. They have a special relationship that is meaningful to both of them.
The last section allows us to read Olga’s letters that were never delivered to her love, Herbert. I found this method of storytelling to be the absolutely best way to end out this sleeper of a book. These letters take us to a whole new level of surprise endings. I have to give this one 5 stars. 
As I was reading, I didn’t realize how much I was falling in love with Olga’s character, even though she was flawed in so many ways, her love for her country and Herbert was true. This one will stay with me for quite a while. 
I want to thank HarperVia along with NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read an ARC.
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Is there an author you’ll read always? For me, it’s Berhnard Schlink. I first discovered him through The Reader a couple of years before the movie and have read nearly every book since.

I don’t love his works quite as much or in the same ways as I used to, I think because I have higher expextations of characters and representation these days, but I still enjoy his writing and he always has excellent translators.

Olga is a pretty simple story of a girl who is just a bit out of place in her world, the man she falls in love with (not worth her affection if you ask me), her life without him, and the legacy she leaves behind in letters.

Not my most fav of Schlink’s works but still good. I liked Olga, her determination to make her own way and live life on her terms in a time and place where that was difficult for women. She is also a progressive character during a difficult time, which was cool.

I switched between the print and audio of this one and enjoyed both equally. I always love the melodic prose of his works in print and the narrator did an excellent job on the audio.
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Olga has had a lot of heartbreak in her life. Denied the opportunity to marry the love of her life due to class differences , surviving two world wars and losing her hearing. When she can no longer teach she becomes seamstress to a  local family. It’s in her role as a seamstress that Olgas’s story comes to light .The son of the family(whom she calls child even into adulthood) developed a strong relationship  with her which continued throughout Olga’s lifetime .On her death ‘child’ learns there’s more to her story  through letters and other correspondence. I wanted to like this more I really did. I never felt a connection to any of the characters  and it was a challenge to finish this.
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Read if you: Enjoy thoughtful, character-driven historical fiction with some twists and turns. 

Librarians/booksellers: Historical fiction fans who enjoy compact character-driven stories will appreciate this. There's so much of historical fiction that's overly epic and long that it's refreshing to read something like this!

Many thanks to HarperVia and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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As Susan Neimann points out in her recent book, <i>Learning from the Germans</i>, Germans spend so much time trying to reconcile the history of the 20th Century, they have even coined a mile-long named to describe it: <i>Vergangenheitsbewältigung</i>, or 'working out the problems of the past.

These themes pop up in a lot of German literature, too, as was seen in Bernhard Schlink's breakthrough novel, <i>The Reader</i>, which shows a young boy in postwar Germany pursuing self-discovery, only to find the object of his interest and lust to be an illiterate former concentration camp guard--who is herself caught up in her own Vergangenheitsbewältigung.

I read--I devoured, really, I couldn't put it down with its short chapters, quick pace, and regular plot twists--<i>Olga</i> in about 12 hours. I found it engrossing, haunting, heartbreaking.

Olga is a fascinating lens through which to tell the story. Half-German, she carries with her a shy Slavic commitment to hard work and a skeptical sense of her place in the world. Born in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland), she moves to Pomerania after her parents' deaths, where she meets Herbert, the only other free spirit in the provincial town.

Herbert, like the other boys in Olga's life, Eik and the boy Ferdinand, is a stand-in for the outlook of an era in 20th-century Germany. He throws himself into expanding the empire, first in the desert wastes of Namibia, later in an ill-fated Arctic exploration. He is a man without limits, equal parts courage and blindness, and he is a man Olga wholly loves.

Eik, a boy in the tiny East Prussian village where Olga teaches, grows up to represent the aspirations of the Nazi Era: a world made for Aryans, <i>Lebensraum</i> from horizon to horizon. And in Ferdinand, we see the materialistic, striving postwar Germany brought to life.

Schlink relates the story in three distinct modes: a concise, third-person telling of Olga's life; a first-person reflection on her life from the perspective of Ferdinand; and, in the final part, an account of Olga's life in her own voice through discovered letters.

In Olga, the reader finds the antidote to <i>Deutschland über Alles</i>, especially as imagined by Herbert and Eik. Because of her race and her gender, Olga lives in a world with limits. Even her love for Herbert is hemmed in by class and distance. As Herbert roves to earth's furthest corners, Olga hunkers down in a single village--on the edge of the German Empire. She remains focused on the present, even as the men around her succumb to fantasies.

She is the kinder, humbler vision that contemporary Germans hope will mark their 21st century, even as they work out the old Herberts and Eiks and Ferdinands of the past.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of the book in return for an honest review.
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This book is brilliant!  SO clever and satisfying with much to relate to as a woman of current times.  The three part structure is such a great way to gradually draw the reader into the story of Olga.  The first part reads almost like a history book – it’s factual and almost cold.  I yearned to get to know the real story of Olga and her lover Herbert.  It’s so drily written that our main character going deaf is just reported in one or two sentences.  There’s reference made to the history of Germany but it’s very much in the background.  Even so, we know what Olga thinks.  Part Two is from a much more subjective narrator who, right away, bring life back to the pages by expressing his irritation; Olga’s sewing machine is too loud and she doesn’t react to this child’s requests.  Ferdinand is our second male character, and while he is an improvement on the first, he is not described very sympathetically.  All men in this novel are basically unlikeable so Olga’s love and tenderness for them is even more remarkable.  Part Three is where we finally hear Olga’s voice and the wait has been worth it all.  She is all we expect and more.  In letters sent to Herbert she reveals her hopes and her dreams as well as a few surprises for the storyline.  She is the strong self-made woman who directs her own life despite her background and her current circumstances.  I want to be like her!  She even recognizes that her love may just be love of an image she has herself created.  This is one masterful novel.  It asks all the big questions.  What is love?  What is family?  I learned a lot of German history including its’ colonizing efforts in Africa.  Ultimately, Olga’s words “I will not adapt myself, will not subordinate myself” is the lesson I took from it and what a great role model for that statement.  I enjoyed this book much more than The Reader.  The translation is excellent.  Thanks Net Galley and HarperVia for the advance copy.
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The blurb tells us that “Olga” is a sweeping novel of love and passion from the author of the international bestseller ‘The Reader’ about a woman out of step with her time, whose life is witness to some of the most tumultuous events of modern age..
Abandoned by her parents, young Olga was raised by her grandmother in a Prussian Village in the early years of the 20th century. Smart and precocious, endearing but uncompromising, she fights against ingrained chauvinism to find her place in a world run by lesser men”
KUDOS to people who write blurbs....and to the person who wrote the above blurb for this book!  

The first thing I must set clear — Olga Rinke was ‘not’ a real person....rather she is a fictionalized character inspired by several strong women (if Bernhard Schlink would be willing to share ‘which’ strong women inspired ‘him’ — I’d be interested to learn more) 

“Olga” is 288 pages - so not long - but like an over-flowing suitcase - we must sit our butts on top of it and squish vigorously to close it.  
I cried at the end of this novel...(but I’m getting ahead of myself)...I wanted soooo bad for Olga to have been a real person...that her life was not lived in vain.  I know that it’s a little absurd to have wished Olga had been a real person and my friend— but it happens sometimes....just call me a little weird and strange.  

If you read the Guardian review (I love the Guardian), the reviewer said secrets were given away too early....
Okay....confession...”what secrets was he or she talking about?” 
This novel is divided into three parts — but I didn’t look at any of it as if it were hiding secrets. However....I was totally melting-in-love- with this novel....
Yet...the ending threw me. I wasn’t and am still not 100% sure if what I read is what I think I read — (but tears came anyway)....
but please forgive me — I’m doing my best here — I got a little confused about a ‘surprise’.  I didn’t see secrets coming down the pipes. The Guardian reviewer is smarter than me. (Ha, ha, which is why they get paid to write a review and I don’t)....

Some of the history was challenging for me — I understood that Olga lived through two World Wars ...but holes in my education showed up about the brutal genocide in Colonial Africa — the Herero and Namaqua genocide (google helped)....
Mostly (I will admit)...I cherished the personal relationship aspects of this novel - more than trying to keep my history perfectly straight.  

I liked many little moments - along more ‘bigger moments - and personal profile descriptions of the characters.  I liked how little enjoyable scenes were the building blocks to the entirety on the novel. 

When Olga was a young girl....(orphaned & poor), her friendship with 
Herbert (a neighborhood aristocratic kid), was priceless....(minus the wrench in their pure enjoyment from Herbert’s family). Herbert’s sister  Viktoria, didn’t come to her brothers defense in the area of love...and Herbert’s parents threaten to disinherit him if he married Olga. 

I liked the conversations that Olga and Herbert had about life.  
When they were young  — sneaking off secretly- to be together — they talked about philosophy, psychology, social issues, politics, infinity, God, eternity, books, art music education, justice, families, love, dreams, ....etc. 
One day, Herbert asked Olga, “what do you know that you didn’t know this morning?”   Great question....don’t you think? 
So I asked my husband the question ....”what do you know now that you didn’t know this morning?” 
Paul had to ‘think’...then told me he “Jeff  Bezos will fly aboard Blue Origin’s First Human Trip to Space”.  

The years were passing by....
When Olga saw Herbert again after his return from German South West Africa, (gone two years), she was so happy that she didn’t question him on the atrocities she had read about. She didn’t want to hear anymore about the battles. 
She wanted to know whether the blacks were beautiful, the men and women, how they lived. She wanted to know what their hopes were for the future. What he liked over there and what had disgusted him. 
She wanted to know what disgusted him there… The diseases, typhoid fever and malaria, yellow fever and meningitis. She wanted to know what he had liked. 

“Olga liked it when there was something Herbert couldn’t understand, couldn’t explain, couldn’t express. He was strong, refused to be intimidated, and didn’t give in, and that was the kind of man she wanted. At the same time she didn’t just want to look up to her man; she liked to have an advantage over him and someways. But he didn’t need to know that, and he certainly didn’t need to get annoyed about it.

There were more journeys that separated Olga and Herbert....
long sea journeys....Argentina, Brazil, Siberia, the Kamchatka Peninsula, and the Arctic. 
Herbert was going to attempt the crossing of the Northeast Passage or the conquest of the North Pole.  

Germany declared war on Russia. The Russians occupied Tilsit and had to abandon it again; in between, people stood outside their houses and heard the cannons at Tannenberg. I really felt how ‘loud’ those cannons were.....(credit goes to Bernhard Schlink). 
Men were missing, and some wives and mothers were already wearing black. 
“Two years had passed since Herbert had set out, and the idea that he would hold out longer than the Danes had done in Greenland was a dream from which Olga awoken as soon as she began to dream it. But his death wasn’t real for Olga either”.  

Olga continued to teach in her village until the land north of Neman, split off from Germany. The Treaty of Versailles was administered by France, and was annexed by Lithuanian in 1923. After that she taught in a village south of Neman. 
Olga’s great joy was Eik....(a student she taught)
“He was a gifted child, an ingenious and skillful hobby craftsman who built himself a boat and a soapbox cart and at the same time a dreamer you couldn’t hear enough about far-off seas and distant lands.
Olga told Eik about Hebert‘s travels to German South West Africa and Argentina and Karelia and the peninsulas in Siberia. She didn’t want to tell him about Spitsbergen or that Herbert was missing, presumed dead”. 
Olga presented Eik with a heroic Herbert, not the boy from Pomerania who had overreached himself and frozen to death, but the adventurer full of longing for great expanses and distant lands, who had not given up, who had overcome the worst hardships and the greatest of dangers. It was as if, although Herbert had failed in the eyes of the whole world, Olga nonetheless wanted to present him to someone as he had seen himself and had wanted to be seen, as if she had forgotten the things she had reproached herself for. 
Later she would fear that Eik was taking the wrong path in life, as Herbert had. 
Because he was gifted, he made it out of the village to the city, from the elementary school to the high school and from Tilsit to Berlin. He studied architecture at the technical University and sometimes Olga would visit and admire him. 
Later he won prizes, designed and built a department store in Halle, a hotel in Munich, a consulate in Genoa, and spent many years in Italy. 

During the summer holidays, Olga caught a fever, thought it was influenza, went to bed, woke up the next morning you could no longer hear. 
She was deaf. 
She was dismissed, at 53. The school administration wanted to get rid of her anyway. She didn’t suit the new age. She wouldn’t have stopped teaching if she hadn’t had to. But for sometime she had assumed the Nazis would dismiss her, and since then the school had felt increasingly alien to her. 
And she had been a teacher for more than 30 years perhaps it was enough.  


Thoughts to contemplate about a cemetery, about those who have died, about those who have lived: 
     “She liked to walk through the cemeteries because everyone was equal here: the powerful and the weak, the poor and the rich, the love and the neglected, those who had been successful and those who had failed. A mausoleum or angel statue, or a big tombstone didn’t change any of that. All were equally dead. No one could or wanted to be grand anymore, and too grand wasn’t a concept”. 


Olga’s Life was her love for Herbert — her resistance to him, as fulfillment and as disappointment. 

Love, loss, history, memories....BEAUTIFUL!

Thank you, HarperVia, Netgalley, and Bernhard Schlink
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5/5
thank you so much to netgalley and to the publishers.

A beautiful story with excellent prose and plot. I loved this book entirely from the characters, plot, setting, etc. Just everything.  This is one hundred percent a unique novel that i'm sure won't work for everyone but it's a great novel nevertheless.
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This reader was delighted to have a new novel from Bernhard Schlink, author of the devastating 20 year old novel The Reader and of a less well known trilogy featuring Nazi prosecutor turned private detective Gerhard Self. His works always have the moral weight of Nazi history lurking in the present and the past. Olga comes to us as an observer of the the better part of a century including German incursion in early 20th century Africa and involvement in two world wars and their consequences. Olga is an observer and a reactor because of her place as a woman and as a member of a lower class. She sees the events of the world through the eyes of Herbert - an upper class neighbor boy whose travels and "great adventures" keep him largely absent from her life but not from her heart. Olga the book is both intimate and panoramic and Olga the girl/woman/old woman is always the moral and emotional center. Very highly recommended.
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A story full of emotions, giving a flavor of a life during the century following the time of Bismarck.

The protagonist in the novel, Olga Rinke, mistrusted “grand” undertakings. Plenty of them happened over the time in which the novel takes place, starting with Bismarck’s undertaking to make Germany big and powerful, colonizing places like South West Africa and Samoa. And then came the German rivalry with Britain, its motivation to support Austria against Serbia and declare war on Russia, France and Belgium, the beginning of World War I, followed two decades later by Hitler’s designs on all of Europe, which became World War II. Olga’s lover, Herbert Schröder, harbored grand plans as well. He began his life with childhood running, every place he went. He next joined the colonial army in Africa, then traveled to South America, the Kila Peninsula, Siberia, and the Kamchatka Peninsula, and finally he sought to find the Northwest Passage and the North Pole. Olga accused him of a misguided search for the great expanse, the expanse without end. Herbert was not dissuaded. He set off for Nordaustlandet in 1913, a journey, Olga feared, that would snatch him away in the bloom of his life. Olga stayed at home, alone for two world wars, and then was afflicted by deafness from an illness, which meant the loss of her teaching career and the beginning of her job as a seamstress in 1950, soon working only for a family with a young boy named Ferdinand.

The first part of the novel, before Ferdinand, is written in a third person, omniscient, point of view. It is a biographical account of Olga’s life before 1950. The second part of the story is told by Ferdinand in his account of Olga’s life from 1950 until her death when she was ninety. Through Ferdinand’s observations, gaps in Olga’s early years are filled in and the reader is handed a wider perspective of the history of Germany surrounding Olga during her life, a closer look at the “grand” events and a contextual exploration of the woman. The passage of time in the first two parts of the novel can leave the reader dizzy. Events and years, sometimes decades, pass in between the paragraphs. This pace is a brilliant device used by the author to demonstrate how memory works, and how the meaning of one’s life can be uncovered by putting it side by side with historical events. Through a minor character in the novel, the owner of a secondhand bookshop in Tromsø, Schlink directly comments on the process, lest the reader miss it: “History is not the past as it really was. It’s the shape we give it.” The third and final part of the novel is epistolary. It contains the letters Olga sent to Herbert, letters he never received, care of a post office in Tromsø, a small town from which he was to depart on his search for the Northwest Passage. These letters are found by Ferdinand in his trip to Tromsø and reveal what Olga thought during the decades after Herbert’s departure, in effect granting the reader her sometimes shocking first person narrative to complement Ferdinand’s earlier one. With the help of these letters, Ferdinand binds together Olga, Eik and Adelheid Volkmann and concludes the story, noting that before her death from an explosion at a statute of Bismarck Olga “set the counterpoint to the melody of her life.”

Olga is as much about emotions and memory as it is about the historical events during the life of a German woman. This is as it should be. In the words of Doris Lessing, “Novels give you the matrix of emotions, give you the flavour of a time in a way formal history cannot.” German history and the enormous social upheaval that occurred between Victorian and modern times is inextricably entwined with Olga’s life. At one point Ferdinand comments upon Olga’s like of walking through cemeteries: “. . . everyone was equal here: the powerful and the weak, the poor and the rich, the loved and the neglected, those who had been successful and those who had failed . . . All were equally dead, no one could or wanted to be grand anymore, and too grand wasn’t even a concept.” Olga castigated Ferdinand at one point, accusing him of being a moralizer, wanting to save the world instead of attending to his own problems: “Moralizers want it both ways: big and cozy at the same time. But no one’s ever as big as their moralizing, and morality isn’t cozy.” For these attitudes, Olga held Bismarck responsible, but how true her words rang when also applied to Hitler’s reign. And how true they ring in today’s “grand” globalized world, full of an expanding “cancel” culture and, in Ferdinand’s words, a “media that have forgotten how to do research and replaced it with moralizing sensationalism.”

Mark Zvonkovic, Reviewer and Author
Read My Reviews at markzvonkovic.com
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Thank you so much to NetGalley and HarperVia for my copy of Olga by Bernhard Schlink in exchange for an honest review. It publishes November 16, 2021.
First off, I have to say that the translation by Charlotte Collins is very well-done, and there were few things that felt confusing, or that didn't translate. She even made a poem rhyme! 
I didn't know what to expect coming into the book, I just knew I wanted to read historical fiction in other parts of the world besides North America. This book delivered, Africa, South America, the Arctic, helped quench my wanderlust and need to go back in time! 
I will mention that this takes place during the late 19th-20th century, and the titular character is German. She does have relationships with people who want to colonize Africa, (it is later condemned in the book, but it isn't condemned while it is happening), she also has relationships with Nazis, although she was completely against that party, and everything it stood for. Which I was glad to read a perspective of a German during WWII that didn't agree with the absolute evil, and unspeakable atrocities that were happening. 
This is told in three distinctive parts, and ultimately it reminded me of Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again. It was a surprisingly quick read, and I learned quite a bit about European history at that time.
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Olga by Bernard Schlink is a devastating love story set in Germany from the time of Bismarck until post-WWII. Olga, is a simple school teacher, who quickly realizes her friendship with Herbert, a wealthy neighbor, is growing into something else altogether. Over years of conquest in Africa, as well as Arctic exploration their bond is challenged and deepened, making for a beautiful, well-written story. The second part of the story depicts Olga as an elderly woman, rounding out this work as a stunning portrait of its titular subject.
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This is not an easy book to explain for me.  Thank you to NetGalley for getting a copy to read. A young woman Olga, not wealthy, falls in love with Herbert,  her neighbor.  He has a passion to explore and travel.  He leaves for long periods of time.   She writes to him and writes of  her love.  He finally goes off on an expedition in the winter to a frozen zone.  He is lost.    She writes him until she finally believes he will not return.  
The letters she sent are retrieved by a man who reads them.  He meets a women who is a child from Olga's and Herbert son, and wants to find out about her grandparents. It’s a little convoluted  and I got lost in the middle but found my way in the middle.
Interesting story told in three parts.
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