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The Reader

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The Reader Cover

 

Staff Pick

A young man and an older woman have a torrid love affair, until she disappears one day without a trace. Ten years later, he's in law school, watching a trial, and there she is: charged with Nazi war crimes! Yes, she does have a secret, but it's not what you think. Excellent!
Recommended by Dianah, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

About the Author

Bernhard Schlink was born in Germany in 1944. A professor of law at the University of Berlin and a practicing judge, he is also the author of several prize-winning crime novels. He lives in Bonn and Berlin.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Zicky, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by Zicky)
I couldn't put this book down! it totally changed my feelings about relationships (and age differences) and the irrationality of people's actions during wartime.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
OneMansView, December 24, 2008 (view all comments by OneMansView)
Absorbing and Cautionary (4.5*s)

Like any fifteen-year-old boy would be, Michael Berg was essentially overwhelmed with the icy good looks of thirty-six-year-old Hanna. Their multi-month affair was intense, awakening, and to some degree exploitative; however, there was a certain reserve and sharpness about Hanna that Michael could never penetrate. Her sudden departure and her memory haunted him for years, but he was completely unprepared for the devastating impact of seeing Hanna as a defendant in a war crimes trial, which he was observing as an assignment for a law school seminar.

The facts that Hanna was a Nazi concentration camp guard and that she was one of several guards charged with overseeing female prisoners who burned to death in a locked cathedral after an allied bombing raid are not in dispute. At this point the questions are many: had he years before not seen or simply ignored a propensity for cruelty, could a person in her position realistically defy orders, what is the complicity and culpability of the entire German society relating to Nazi atrocities, and do laws and legal process actually lead to justice? Beyond these reflections, Michael had to decide whether he should make contact with her and in what way.

Michael finds no easy answers and is quite equivocal in the manner in which he should now relate to Hanna. It is the discovery of a secret, an unusual shortcoming, of Hanna’s that permits him to at least partially understand her past actions and to embark on a course of action that was perhaps all that circumstance allowed.

The book is structured as a book within a book with Michael finally capturing the history and his thoughts of his long association with Hanna. Perhaps the reader will want to question what Hanna or Michael could have done differently, but they, as in life, only get one chance. The book proceeds reasonably well considering the frequent reflection and the author’s tendency for a somewhat difficult writing style. It is definitely an absorbing and cautionary tale
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(8 of 12 readers found this comment helpful)
Markin, December 28, 2007 (view all comments by Markin)
Much enjoyed. The ways it plays with one's moral sense was well crafted.
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(12 of 22 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375707971
Author:
Schlink, Bernhard
Publisher:
Vintage Books USA
Translator:
Janeway, Carol Brown
Author:
Janeway, Carol Brown
Author:
Various
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
World war, 1939-1945
Subject:
Germany
Subject:
Romance
Subject:
Legal
Subject:
War crime trials
Subject:
World War, 19
Subject:
Man-woman relationships
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage International
Series Volume:
98-499
Publication Date:
19990331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8.05x5.27x.59 in. .46 lbs.

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Reader New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$13.95 In Stock
Product details 224 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780375707971 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

A young man and an older woman have a torrid love affair, until she disappears one day without a trace. Ten years later, he's in law school, watching a trial, and there she is: charged with Nazi war crimes! Yes, she does have a secret, but it's not what you think. Excellent!

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