Book Review: The Reader

September 27, 2013 Whitney Review 2 Comments

Book Review: The ReaderThe Reader by Bernhard Schlink
Published by Pantheon on June 26, 1997
Genres: Historical Fiction
Source: Library

Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.

When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.

Some people would say that the major theme in The Reader is the Holocaust but I think that is a mere sub-plot the main theme being pride. Throughout the entirety of the novel Hanna is too stubborn and proud to reveal her shameful secret, constantly changing jobs, declining promotions that may bring this issue into light or just moving away from the situation all together. Years later in the court room even after Michael figures out his former lover’s secret, even though it may help her case he does not disclose the information because he knows it would devastate her.

To be honest I saw the movie before reading the book and liked the film better. I don’t know if it was because I knew what she was hiding going into the novel therefore taking away some of the mystery or the unknown that surrounded Hanna or if I just liked the way the film was presented better. Either way it was a very interesting read making the reader question what is morally right.


2 responses to “Book Review: The Reader

  1. It has been a while since I read this book… honestly I didn't really like it. I just remember it being kind of cheesy. But it's been a long time so I can't really say why I thought that.

    • I can see why you could think that, it does have some "Mrs. Robinson" undertones. I think what drew me was Hanna's unwillingness to admit she was unable to read no matter the cost. It gave a glimpse of the power of words.

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