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The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
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The Reader (original 1995; edition 1999)

by Bernhard Schlink

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,568305301 (3.71)334
Member:ashbrau
Title:The Reader
Authors:Bernhard Schlink
Info:Pantheon (1999), Hardcover, 218 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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Work details

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (1995)

  1. 82
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (bookcrazyblog, lucyknows)
    bookcrazyblog: Though book thief is understood to be Teen-read, it is deep and enthralling. If you liked The Reader for anything beyond its sensuality in the first part, you will love Book Thief
    lucyknows: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak may linked with The Reader by Bernhard Schlink using the themes of reading, Nazi Germany and death. You could also pair it with the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman. Atonement by Ian McEwan could work as well because of the young protagonists, war, and reading.… (more)
  2. 20
    In My Brother's Shadow: A Life and Death in the SS by Uwe Timm (Tinwara)
    Tinwara: Autobiographical account that also deals with the post war generation in Germany, trying to come to an understanding of how loved persons can make the wrong decisions.
  3. 10
    Without Blood by Alessandro Baricco (2810michael)
  4. 10
    Let Me Go by Helga Schneider (Booksloth)
  5. 00
    Before I Knew Him by Anna Ralph (1Owlette)
  6. 00
    Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (1Owlette)
  7. 00
    Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (bnbookgirl)
    bnbookgirl: One of my top ten fav's.
  8. 01
    Berlin by Pierre Frei (Johanna11)
    Johanna11: Although the books are very different in many respects, both are about Berlin after WWII and about Germans during WWII and after.
  9. 01
    Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel (Cecilturtle)
  10. 12
    Close Range by Annie Proulx (1Owlette)
    1Owlette: Although very different in many ways, [The Reader] and [Brokeback Mountain] are both similarly devastating and concentrated in their impact.
  11. 01
    Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (lucyknows)
    lucyknows: The Reader could be successfully paired with Enduring Love for English Studies. In addition either book could also be be paired with the film The Talented Mr Ripley under the theme of obsession
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» See also 334 mentions

English (263)  Spanish (10)  Dutch (8)  German (5)  French (3)  Finnish (3)  Swedish (2)  Italian (2)  Catalan (2)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Hebrew (1)  Korean (1)  All languages (303)
Showing 1-5 of 263 (next | show all)
You might say “Why bother re-hashing the Nazi atrocities and ‘the final solution’ of World War II?”
Here’s one reason: it’s not satisfactory to say, simply, “Never again.”
Another reason: Bernhard Schlink has created a noble and compelling illumination of one aspect of the horrific, barely imaginable realities of the second great war: the mindset of the good people of Germany who allowed Hitler and the Nazis to take power and do their evil, and the confusion of younger Germans who came of age afterward.
The Reader offers some insight into a tiny slice of the German mindset, with an abbreviated biography of Hanna Schmitz. Her life is the personification of pathos. She is fiercely self-sufficient, but she is a puppet of the Nazi regime. She passionately savors literature, but she is illiterate. She is instinctively kind and generous, but she can admit without remorse that, as an SS concentration camp guard, she allowed several hundred women to burn to death in a church.
Michael Berg, an unworldly teenager, is the reader. Hanna entices him to read good books to her, long before he realizes that she cannot read or write. Michael’s relationship with Hanna metamorphoses in fantastic and soul-destroying ways. He struggles with his growing awareness that he has been seared, tainted and transformed by his consuming involvement with her.
At Hanna’s war crimes trial, Michael stares into the abyss: he explores her guilt, his feelings about intervening to mitigate her sentence, the ineffable mystery of who should share guilt for the war horrors: “…that some few would be convicted and punished while we of the second generation were silenced by revulsion, shame, and guilt—was that all there was to it now?”
Michael reflects on his irresolvable dilemma: “When I tried to understand [Hanna’s crime], I had the feeling I was failing to condemn it as it must be condemned. When I condemned it as it must be condemned, there was no room for understanding.”
Michael works at expiation. He sends recorded books on tape to Hanna while she is in prison. Finally, he learns that his effort was too self-protective, too little, too late to do the right thing.
I think that’s the reality that Schlink had in mind.
More on my blogs:
http://barleyliterate.blogspot.com/
http://historybottomlines.blogspot.com/ ( )
  rsubber | Jan 29, 2015 |
I really love Schlink's short stories and was expecting to love this, since everyone else seemed to. It was good enough, I guess. But a little thin somehow. A one-day book that is oddly hesitant in its prose style. A rare case where I liked the movie better (also true for me of Schindler's List, and Empire of the Sun). ( )
  poingu | Jan 29, 2015 |
Walking home from school one day, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg becomes seriously ill. He is rescued by Hanna Schmitz, a woman twice his age. Hanna, a bus conductor, tends to Michael and then takes him back to his home. Over time, Michael and Hanna form a relationship, and she becomes his lover - then she inexplicably disappears from Michael's life.

When Michael next sees Hanna, he is a young law student, sitting in on a trial in which Hanna is a defendant. She is accused of a hideous crime, but inexplicably refuses to defend herself. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael is at first perplexed by her actions. However, as the trial continues, he gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret which she considers more shameful than murder.

I absolutely loved this book. I was drawn into the plot very quickly; and by about two pages in, I was completely engrossed in the story. This was a translation from the original German, but it was a very well-written, understandable, and easy read for me. In my opinion, the story flowed along easily and I avidly wanted to know what happened next.

This was an unusual book to begin with - and while I haven't seen the 2008 movie adaption starring Kate Winslett and Ralph Fiennes - I enjoyed the book very much. I give this book an A+! ( )
  moonshineandrosefire | Nov 11, 2014 |
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink is above all, a story that warms your heart in a peculiar way, because it makes you feel compassion for characters who perhaps didn't give as much of themselves to the story as they could have.
The book is a perfect example on how concise storytelling can be, and still, contain so much information. It is a very quick read (about 1 hour) but it reaches deep into you. The subjects range from teenage love with an older woman to concentration camps.
I have however, watched the movie adaptation before getting into the book and despite not being my favourite ever, I was touched by the fantastic performance from all actors, especially Kate Winslet, and how raw the contents were delivered. I remember starting it at 5am, planning only to watch 15 minutes or so and going to sleep after 7am because of how much I needed to know what happened next. The book does the same, only in words and not pictures. It doesn't give you any crap, basically.
I thought the story very honest, and, as I was reading it, I kept getting frustrated just thinking about the scene at the court of law - which could have changed everything for both our main characters - but due to their behavior, it didn't.
Still, a very enjoyable read. ( )
  sarafwilliams | Sep 13, 2014 |
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink is above all, a story that warms your heart in a peculiar way, because it makes you feel compassion for characters who perhaps didn't give as much of themselves to the story as they could have.
The book is a perfect example on how concise storytelling can be, and still, contain so much information. It is a very quick read (about 1 hour) but it reaches deep into you. The subjects range from teenage love with an older woman to concentration camps.
I have however, watched the movie adaptation before getting into the book and despite not being my favourite ever, I was touched by the fantastic performance from all actors, especially Kate Winslet, and how raw the contents were delivered. I remember starting it at 5am, planning only to watch 15 minutes or so and going to sleep after 7am because of how much I needed to know what happened next. The book does the same, only in words and not pictures. It doesn't give you any crap, basically.
I thought the story very honest, and, as I was reading it, I kept getting frustrated just thinking about the scene at the court of law - which could have changed everything for both our main characters - but due to their behavior, it didn't.
Still, a very enjoyable read. ( )
  sarafwilliams | Sep 13, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 263 (next | show all)
What starts out as a story of sexual awakening, something that Colette might have written, a ''Cherie and the Last of Cherie'' set in Germany after the war, is suddenly darkened by history and tragic secrets. In the end, one is both moved and disturbed, saddened and confused, and, above all, powerfully affected by a tale that seems to bear with it the weight of truth.
 
Schlink's daring fusion of 19th-century post-romantic, post-fairy-tale models with the awful history of the 20th century makes for a moving, suggestive and ultimately hopeful work, an original contribution to the impossible genre with the questionable name of Vergangenheitsbewaltigung, ''coming to terms with the past.''
 

» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bernhard Schlinkprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Janeway, Carol BrownTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirchner, Ernst LudwigCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lien, ToroddTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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First words
When I was fifteen, I got hepatitis.
Quotations
Being ill when you are a child or growing up is such an enchanted interlude!
When rescue came, it was almost an assault. The woman seized my arm and pulled me through the dark entryway into the courtyard.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A parable of German guilt and atonement and a love story of stunning power.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375707972, Paperback)

Oprah Book Club® Selection, February 1999: Originally published in Switzerland, and gracefully translated into English by Carol Brown Janeway, The Reader is a brief tale about sex, love, reading, and shame in postwar Germany. Michael Berg is 15 when he begins a long, obsessive affair with Hanna, an enigmatic older woman. He never learns very much about her, and when she disappears one day, he expects never to see her again. But, to his horror, he does. Hanna is a defendant in a trial related to Germany's Nazi past, and it soon becomes clear that she is guilty of an unspeakable crime. As Michael follows the trial, he struggles with an overwhelming question: What should his generation do with its knowledge of the Holocaust? "We should not believe we can comprehend the incomprehensible, we may not compare the incomparable.... Should we only fall silent in revulsion, shame, and guilt? To what purpose?"

The Reader, which won the Boston Book Review's Fisk Fiction Prize, wrestles with many more demons in its few, remarkably lucid pages. What does it mean to love those people--parents, grandparents, even lovers--who committed the worst atrocities the world has ever known? And is any atonement possible through literature? Schlink's prose is clean and pared down, stripped of unnecessary imagery, dialogue, and excess in any form. What remains is an austerely beautiful narrative of the attempt to breach the gap between Germany's pre- and postwar generations, between the guilty and the innocent, and between words and silence. --R. Ellis

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:56 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Schoolboy Michael Berg, 15, meets an older woman and they have an affair, which she breaks off and disappears. Seven years later Berg, now a law student attending a trial, sees her in the dock, accused in a crime dating back to World War II and the death camp at Auschwitz.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 14 descriptions

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