Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review: Schadenfreude, A Love Story by Rebecca Schuman

Title: Schadenfreude, A Love Story
Author: Rebecca Schuman 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publish Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "You know that feeling you get watching a pompous jerk whine into his cell as he’s booted out of a restaurant? When the elevator doors slide shut just before your sadistic boss can step in beside you? There’s a word for this mix of malice and joy, and the Germans (of course) invented it. It’s Schadenfreude, deriving pleasure from others’ misfortune, and with Slate columnist Rebecca Schuman, the Teutons have a stern, self-satisfied blast at her expense.

Rebecca is just your average chronically misunderstood 90’s teenager, with a passion for Pearl Jam and Ethan Hawke circa Reality Bites, until two men walk into her high school Civics class: Dylan Gellner, with deep brown eyes and an even deeper soul, and Franz Kafka, hitching a ride in Dylan’s backpack. These two men are the axe to the frozen sea that is Rebecca’s spirit, and what flows forth is a passion for all things German (even though, as everyone is quick to remind her, Kafka wasn’t German at all). Dreamy Dylan might leave the second he gets accepted to a better college than Rebecca does, but Kafka is forever, and in pursuit of this elusive love she will spend two decades stuttering and stumbling through broken German sentences, trying to win over a people who don’t want to be bothered."

My Two Cents:

In "Schadenfreude," Rebecca Schuman examines her time as a young person studying abroad in Germany. After being bitten by the language bug and fancying herself a linguistic expert, she goes to Germany where she realizes that she may not be the savant she fancied herself. What ensues is a story of one young woman trying to find her place in the world in a totally different place that she could ever imagine.

Oh, youth! How blind you make us! This book is about the author looking backwards to see how her experience of studying abroad in Germany and studying Germany affected her life and got her to where she is presently. She is initially pushed towards learning German because she falls for a guy in high school who pushes her to read more Kafka than just "The Metamorphosis" and then she decides that she is in love with Kafka (oh, who doesn't remember high school obsessions like that). She realizes how little she knows when she is reminded over and over again that Kafka was not German. 

She paints a picture of someone who doesn't realize that there is anything or anyone outside of herself in the beginning. Slowly her eyes begin to open. She's still naive throughout much of her travels but the past is oh-so-easily viewed in 20/20 vision. The book does get a little repetitive in some places but overall, this was a funny look at an outsider's view of Germany.


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