By Bernhard Schlink
Completed December 11, 2011
I picked up The Reader from a Borders closeout sale. It was cheap, and the cover with Kate Winslet on it reminded me that people liked the novel and movie. I had no idea what it was about, but who could give up a bargain?
What I didn’t bargain for was to be completely moved by this story. How I wish I could have read The Reader with a lively book group or in a college class! The Reader has so many ethical layers that it left me thinking about the book long after I finished the last page. And, for me, that’s the hallmark of a provocative story.
I won’t give too much away because I think discovering the plot twists are part of the book’s appeal. In short, at the age of 15, Michael Berg falls in love with a woman more than twice his age. Hanna was mysterious and sensual – a adolescent’s dream. When she took off one day without notice, Michael was heartbroken and never fully recovered from the loss of Hanna from his life. Their paths cross again, though, and Michael learns about Hanna’s secrets – many of which are deplorable. How can this be the same Hanna he fell in love with as a teenager?
From a historical fiction perspective, The Reader exposes the moral dilemmas of the German generation whose parents were involved in the Third Reich, which is a viewpoint I had never considered before. Mix this with compelling characters and ethical questions, and you have The Reader. If you love historical fiction and thought-provoking stories, The Reader will leave you very satisfied. ( )