26 February 2011

11. The Reader

The Reader - Bernhard Schlink

Interesting. I disliked the first part of the book. I really liked the middle. I think the ending was pretty darned good. How is that for a summation?

The beginning: Michael Berg is a fifteen year old German boy during WWII. He meets a woman named Hannah Scmidts who is about thirty years old and works as a conducter on a trolley. He is infatuated with her. They end up being lovers. He reads books to her every day. One day she is just gone. Moved away and Michael has no idea where or why.

Years later: WWII is over. The youth of Germany now condemn the actions of their Nazi parents. Michael is doing a project for college and must attend a trial where some people are on trial that worked at a concentration camp. One of the people is hannah Scmidts. Hannah refuses to defend herself on numerous occasions and is sentenced to life in prison. Michael realizes that the reason Hannah took the fall is that she is illiterate and is more ashamed of that than being convicted.

While Hannah is in prison Michael reads book onto cassette tapes and sends them to Hannah. Never a note or anything. Just the books. Over time Hannah learns to read and write using Michael's tapes and the books from the prison library.

Hannah is freed after serving 18 years. Michael is the only person ever to contact Hannah so the warden asks him to help her in the trasnition. He does. The night before she is released she hangs herself.

Thee is much more to the book as far as interpersonal relationships and the effects people had on each others lives. Twice I was taken by surprise. Once when it was revealed that Hannah was illiterate and all the implications that had on why things happened the way they had in the past as she covered her illiteracy. The other was that Hannah kills herself. It was abrupt and unexpected.

I enjoyed the book. Not at first of course. It was like listening to a kid tell a story about Stiffler's mom. Once Hannah left and the physical relationship ended it was much more interesting. Interesting enough for me to recommend it to you? Nah. Probably not.

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