Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Review: The Reader


Have you seen the new movie The Reader (based on the book of the same name)? I have not, though I read the book years ago. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink came out in English in 1997 and was an Oprah book in '99. Not being an Oprah devotee, I didn't read it then but found it used several years later. I have not re-read it since, but this book really stuck with me and I have found myself in the years since thinking about it now and then.

Description from School Library Journal (via Amazon)
YA. Michael Berg, 15, is on his way home from high school in post-World War II Germany when he becomes ill and is befriended by a woman who takes him home. When he recovers from hepatitis many weeks later, he dutifully takes the 40-year-old Hanna flowers in appreciation, and the two become lovers. The relationship, at first purely physical, deepens when Hanna takes an interest in the young man's education, insisting that he study hard and attend classes. Soon, meetings take on a more meaningful routine in which after lovemaking Michael reads aloud from the German classics. There are hints of Hanna's darker side: one inexplicable moment of violence over a minor misunderstanding, and the fact that the boy knows nothing of her life other than that she collects tickets on the streetcar. Content with their arrangement, Michael is only too willing to overlook Hanna's secrets. She leaves the city abruptly and mysteriously, and he does not see her again until, as a law student, he sits in on her case when she is being tried as a Nazi criminal. Only then does it become clear that Hanna is illiterate and her inability to read and her false pride have contributed to her crime and will affect her sentencing. The theme of good versus evil and the question of moral responsibility are eloquently presented in this spare coming-of-age story that's sure to inspire questions and passionate discussion.- Jackie Gropman, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA, Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
I will emphatically disagree with Ms. Gropman that this book is YA. While some teens may enjoy it, and it's relatively easy to read, this is a dark book with mature themes.

I can't say that I entirely enjoyed reading this book, but as I said, over the years I have found myself thinking about The Reader. Mostly, trying to decide if what Hanna did (which I won't describe so as to not spoil you) was an act of compassion, or one that showed her as even worse than the other prison guards. While this may not be the most lowing review, I definitely thought The Reader was quite good.

Buy The Reader on Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. Good review, I liked this story very much too. And you're right, it's American marketing that makes them call it YA. This is adult fiction and was written as such.

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