In chapter 5 Adele describes Ottilie as a wonderful girl who is entangled in an on/off relationship with August (sometimes called Herr von Goethe) , the son of Goethe. There are various little diversions from describing Ottilie's travails. I do not have the patience to reread the chapter and summarize these diversions: hopes, distractions, encounters, missed opportunities. Our little book group is insufficient reason to read it again . What does Mann want to convey? That things happen without much coherence? That we tell ourselves a story about our life but another story could be told about the same facts? If Mann had a message, why not state that message explicitly? It is not meant to be a detective where guessing the plot creates cohesion.