Posted by: istop4books | May 10, 2009

The Reader, Bernard Schlink

The Reader The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

My review

 


rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this book very quickly and was captured by it. The story is compelling, the plot moves along quickly and the ending is unexpected. Beyond that, it’s a book that forces you to look at relationships, about honor, about right and wrong, about guilt and love. As the book begins, Michael, a 15 year old high school kid lives in 1958 post war Berlin.  He meets Hannah, a 32 year old ticket taker on the bus. They begin a relationship that is passionate, aloof, loving and just a bit sordid. In our day and age it would be looked upon plain and simply as statutory rape.

As the characters get to know one another, Michael’s feelings intensify to the point of an obsessive love, the kind often seen in young adolescents. As the book is told from his perspective, we never really know what forces propel Hannah; she enjoys literature, loves being read to and has some insightful comments about education and learning. Michael on the other hand, is 15 or 16 years old, and is living this affair one day at a time without the value of a life of experience. He only knows what he knows.

It seems that having such a grown-up relationship at a young age tainted Michael for the rest of his life.  The intensity of the relationship at such a young age prejudices him in all the rest of his relationships as Hannah’s imprint on Michael was long lasting. When he should have had a high school girlfriend, or multiple crushes on girls, and gone through the learning curve of relationships, infatuations, break ups and make ups, he was thrust into this adult relationship without the tools or maturity to deal with it. He didn’t understand that he was being used by a woman for her own selfish reasons.

Without giving too much away, the film explores the relationship between the first generation of Germans who took part in the war, perhaps as Nazis, or SS or bystanders, who, years later, did not have a clear understanding of the harm they inflicted and the deep and profound wrongs they committed; and the second generation. Michael belongs to that second generation, the ones who question these people, these deeds, who look at their parents and say, “How could you?” and “how can I love you knowing what you did?”

Powerful, thought provoking, memorable.

View all my reviews.

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