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.