Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

A powerful and intense tale of secrets and a hidden past, The Reader is a thrilling book. As a 15-year-old boy in postwar Germany, Michael Berg had a passionate affair with a mysterious, guarded woman twice his age that ended suddenly when she disappeared. Years later, Michael sees her again -- when she is on trial for a terrible crime. (from Goodreads)

Flo's Review
I picked up this book for 25 cents at my favorite used bookstore back in Tennessee awhile ago. But a few weeks ago I happened to see the audiobook at the library, and noticing that it wasn't too long, I decided to give it a listen.

This book was interesting. And I don't mean that in a, "It was ... interesting..." synonym for "weird" kind of way. I mean that it really made me think and it made my heart hurt. Toward the end of the book one of the characters asks Michael directly, "Did you ever feel...that she knew what she had done to you?" When I read it, my first reaction was to instinctively try to defend Hanna. Which is interesting to me. I thought about it some more and decided -- wait, this is actually a valid question. Michael's whole life -- how he lived, how to loved, how he ended up in his career -- it was all influenced by this relationship he had when he was 15 years old. His life doesn't sound happy or fulfilling, and that makes me sad.

Hanna. Wow. I just kept thinking this would be a great book club selection because you could have oodles of discussion just about this one woman. Did she know how she affected Michael's life? Why did she really choose the path she chose at the end of the novel? How did her secret get to be so important to conceal that it led her to where she ended up?


Michael's secret was Hanna. And that secret changed the course of his life, as I stated above. Hanna's secret (which I won't reveal because it may be a spoiler to some) changed the course of her life. And like Michael's, her life did not sound happy or fulfilling either. Wow. So these two characters, in that way, are similar.

One of the most interesting things about this book for me was hearing Michael explain how his generation felt and reacted to being the children of parents who lived during Nazi Germany. He describes shame. He describes a generation that wanted to almost disown their parents because of what they let happen. He describes college students who rebelled against their parents not just because they are kids and that's what kids end up doing a lot of the time, but because they couldn't believe that their parents could play a role, whatever that role was, in the Third Reich. I had never thought about this before, and it was really very cool to read this perspective.

I was telling someone today that I'd just finished this book and I had thought about watching the movie, but I wasn't sure I wanted to yet because FEELS. So many FEELS. But I saw Kate Winslet as Hanna the whole time I was reading, so I would like to actually see the movie at some point to see how the Kate as Hanna in my head matches the Kate as Hanna in the film.

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