The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The ReaderThe Reader. Finished 4-25-15, rating 5/5, fiction, pub. 1995

Unabridged audio read by Campbell Scott. 4 hours, 30 minutes

Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.
When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover–then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.

from Goodreads

I watched the movie made from this book in 2009 when it came out because I love Kate Winslet and I ended up being very moved by it.  And it was with those images in my mind that I listened to the book expertly narrated by Campbell Scott. He became the young and then the adult Michael for me.  Between the movie and Campbell’s narration there was a warmth and richness to this story that I don’t know if I would have found in reading the book alone.  At just over 200 pages it tackled a lot and much of it had to be personally considered by the reader.  What I’m saying is that I can vouch for the audio, but I don’t know it I would have loved it as much if I had read the book alone.

The first part is the love? story between the 15 year old Michael and the 30 something old Hanna.  I didn’t ever truly figure out the why of it on her end, but it’s an easier sell for a 15-year-old boy to be captivated by a woman who teaches him all about sex .  I found it realistic especially since as he started to spend more time with his peers he began to question Hanna’s place among them.

Flash forward a few years and Michael is at university studying law and his class is studying a trial of women accused of Nazi crimes and he sees Hanna for the first time since he was 15.  She was a guard for one of the concentration camps and now must face her day in court.  Michael is riveted and doesn’t miss a day.

I loved this for how much it manages to pack into such a short book.  There was the strange physical relationship between the two, but then it moved into things more thought-provoking, horrifying and sad.  It’s a great book for discussion and those who are interested in post-war Germany.  Not a happy book, but one that left me satisfied and enriched.

I will probably have to watch the movie again now because from what I remember the two almost the same.

8 thoughts on “The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

  1. Rita @ View From My Home says:

    Intense! I avoided the movie/book because of the story of an under-aged boy and adult woman lover– if the tables were turned and it was a young girl and an adult man it also would bother me– but I think given the details of the Nazi war crimes trials, the era would overshadow the physicality of the story. Perhaps the atmosphere of the country contributed to the urgency of their relationship.

    Thanks for sharing this, Stacy. I like how you did a movie/book comparison.

  2. thetruebookaddict says:

    I loved this book. I read it before the movie came out. For me, books that move me and make me think are the most profound. This book definitely fit the bill. I thought they did a good job with the movie too. And Kate Winslet was phenomenal, as always. Nice review, Stacy. 🙂

  3. Anna says:

    I was surprised by how thought-provoking the book was, and I remember the movie actually made me cry. Even if their relationship was disturbing, I agree that it felt realistic.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s