An exceptionally powerful novel exploring the themes of betrayal, guilt and memory against the background of the Holocaust.
An international bestseller. For 15-year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. The woman in question is Hanna, and before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved is a criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. But then suddenly, and terribly, it does - Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret. 'A tender, horrifying novel that shows blazingly well how the Holocaust should be dealt with in fiction. A thriller, a love story and a deeply moving examination of a German conscience' INDEPENDENT
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 240 pages, 32 colour illustrations
- Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
- Publication Date: 28/02/1998
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780753804704
Showing 1 - 5 of 7 reviews.
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Review by dylanwolf
I came across this book six-months or so before the film adaption raised its profile. The Reader is a straightforward story of a young boy's seduction by an older woman who employs him as a reader. Later in life he discovers that she had a dark past, having been involved in Nazi atrocities, when she is brought to trial for her crimes. A readable enough book and now well loved by book clubs - I was fairly unmoved by it. The Reader was not a novel I shall particularly remember but neither is it one that is poorly written or plotted.
Review by pingdjip
Somehow this novel manages to be neat and tidy, although it is about someone who stumbles upon the horrors of the holocaust. As a post-war adolescent boy the protagonist had a secret sexual relationship with an older woman. He read novels to her, hence the title. Years later, as a law student, he attends the trials against concentration camp guards. It turns out that one of these ex-guards is his former secret lover, whom he hasn’t seen for years. The protagonist is shocked, yet fascinated, as he learns of the woman’s war crimes. He also notices that her story in court makes things worse, because of her verbal clumsiness and the illiteracy she doesn’t admit. He’s able to notice this, because he has known her intimately. To his distress, he is haunted by all sorts of moral questions and emotional contradictions. After the trial (when she is in jail) he stays in touch with her, but in a very remote way, not visiting her, just sending her audio tapes of novels read aloud by himself. The book deals with the woman’s feelings of guilt and the way she tries to make up for it in prison. It also deals with the protagonist’s ambivalence: detesting her crimes, yet feeling something like loyalty to her. In the end a grim silence remains: the void that is left by things that cannot be fitted into normal human perception and every day life.
Review by WomblingStar
I enjoyed this book and found the topic of post war Germany very interesting. I found that I was sympathetic to the main character despite her crimes. It also made me very aware of the joy I receive from reading that the illiterate miss out on as well as the other difficulties they face in life. A very moving book.
Review by nicky_too
Yet another book I decided to read after seeing the film.I was very surprised to find out it is only 216 pages!Whereas the film was, in my opinion, very good, the book surpasses it with ease.After watching the film I was left with questions. I wanted to look inside the heads of Michael Berg and Hanna Schmitz. I wanted to know why they did what they did in the way they did it.The book does give the answers to these and other questions.Thankfully it also leaves me with even more questions. Those are the questions I can answer for myself, in time. I'm left wondering why Michael has such contradicting feelings towards Hanna, what the impact of WW II actually was on the 'second generation' Germans, why Hanna was (or seemed?) so incredibly cold and proud.All in all, this little book grabs you by the throat and won't let go until you have read it from front to back. I could hardly put it down and I will in the future read it again and again.
Review by Sorrel
Most of the stories and accounts I’ve been reading lately have been adequately crafted, but <i>The Reader</i> stands out as being really beautifully written. It’s a story about a young boy who has a relationship with an older woman, and about a Nazi war trial, and about contemporary Germans coming to terms with Germany’s Nazi past. I was a bit reluctant to get started after I’d decided to read it, as some of the themes are definitely distressing, but this is a thoughtful, well-measured book. I recommend it.
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