The Reader

Schlink, Bernard. The Reader. New York: Vintage International, 1998.

By now I am sure everyone has seen the movie of the same name (2008). After all, Kate Winslet (did I spell that right?) won an Oscar for her portrayal of Hanna Schmitz. At least I think she did. I have not seen the movie nor did I watch the Academy Awards last year, although I hear the movie deserves to be seen if for nothing else than that reason – Hanna/Kate. However, being a librarian I think the book deserves to be read first. Without a doubt.

Anyway. Bernard Schlink paints a hauntingly beautiful love story tinged with pain. The premise is simple. Michael Berg as a young boy of 15 is seduced by a woman at least twice his age. He confuses his coming-of-age feelings with falling in love with Hanna Schmitz and becomes confused and almost devastated when she disappears from his life as suddenly as she had first entered it. Michael is a burgeoning law student when his path crosses Hanna’s again. Hanna is on trial for an unspeakable war crime. As a law student Michael can only guess as to why Hanna does not defend herself, nor does she even try. He spends the duration of the trial wrestling with her apparent guilt as well as the memories of the old passion he no longer feels for her. Obviously there is a lot more to the story but I’ll leave that for you to find out. Like I said, read the book.

Favorite lines: “We did not have a world that we shared; she gave me the space in her life that she wanted me to have” (p 77), and “Illiteracy is dependence” (p 188).

Author Fact: Bernard Schlink has written detective novels as well as short stories.

Book Trivia: The Reader has been translated in over thirty different languages. The movie thing you already know.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “What a Trial That Was!” (p 244).

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