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The Reader (Movie Tie-in Edition) [Paperback]

Bernhard Schlink
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (709 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 25 2008 Vintage International
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.

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The Reader (Movie Tie-in Edition) + The Three Theban Plays: Antigone/Oedipus the King/Oedipus at Colonus + Four Major Plays: (Doll's House; Ghosts; Hedda Gabler; and The Master Builder)
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From Amazon

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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From School Library Journal

YA. Michael Berg, 15, is on his way home from high school in post-World War II Germany when he becomes ill and is befriended by a woman who takes him home. When he recovers from hepatitis many weeks later, he dutifully takes the 40-year-old Hanna flowers in appreciation, and the two become lovers. The relationship, at first purely physical, deepens when Hanna takes an interest in the young man's education, insisting that he study hard and attend classes. Soon, meetings take on a more meaningful routine in which after lovemaking Michael reads aloud from the German classics. There are hints of Hanna's darker side: one inexplicable moment of violence over a minor misunderstanding, and the fact that the boy knows nothing of her life other than that she collects tickets on the streetcar. Content with their arrangement, Michael is only too willing to overlook Hanna's secrets. She leaves the city abruptly and mysteriously, and he does not see her again until, as a law student, he sits in on her case when she is being tried as a Nazi criminal. Only then does it become clear that Hanna is illiterate and her inability to read and her false pride have contributed to her crime and will affect her sentencing. The theme of good versus evil and the question of moral responsibility are eloquently presented in this spare coming-of-age story that's sure to inspire questions and passionate discussion.?Jackie Gropman, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Reader April 4 2004
By A Customer
I have just finished reading "The Reader" and must say, that I disagree with the previous reviews. I'm not a particularly well-read reader but found this book slow-paced and I nearly gave up on it several times. I also found "the secret" very obvious from the start and not a very believable or realistic reason as to why Hanna would take the blame for the wicked event which took place.
Michael's behaviour during the trial was at times very frustrating and at the end of the book when he could have made amends he failed her again. I don't think I would recommend this book to anyone but value and appreciate other readers opinions.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 4 STARS Nov. 26 2013
At first I couldn't get past the fact that fifteen-year-old Michael had a sexual affair with a 36-year-old woman. I found that to be disgusting and at first all I could focus on was the statutory rape and I ignored what this book was truly about - the desire for the discovery of the truth, the attempt to answer the question WHY, and the feeling of collective guilt. Yes, Michael was 15 and Hanna was 36. Yes, that was wrong. But there's no way this book could have been nearly as powerful, no way could Michael have been so deeply affected, no way could he have been so innocent throughout the Third Reich, if he were a grown man. He HAD to be young, naive, innocent. He HAD to be a contrast to the grown-up, illiterate, tainted Hanna. And once I accepted that, I began to truly love this book.

The Reader is not without its flaws. I wish Michael and Hanna's relationship had been built a little slower. It was insta-lust on his part which very quickly jumped to insta-"love", again on his part. That took away from the powerfulness of their relationship for me. It sort of made me just view Michael as a horny, delusional teenage boy instead of a boy who is battling powerful feelings for an older woman. The strong part of The Reader is hands-down the trial and what happens after it. That's when I got truly sucked in. You can feel Michael's suffering and angst throughout the book. After all, he was just a 15-year-old boy when the affair began, and he couldn't handle such a thing in his youth. Even in his adult years, he has not yet recovered. He never will, and that strongly shows in this book.

My mom saw the movie when it came out and she strongly sympathized with Hanna. "She didn't know what a strong affect she would have on his life," she told me.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
It is much easier to write a scathing review than to be humbled in the face of what for me is, to date, the best book that I have ever read. THE READER By Bernard Schlink is only one of ten books that I have already read this year and though I have recommended it to others no one has had quite the irreversible effect from its reading that I did. I finished it awhile ago and yet there is not a detail that I don't still recall. I am not often up for a second reading of anything except WUTHERING HEIGHTS and yet I can hardly wait for the third copy I have purchased and loaned to be returned so that I can read it again. I am so afraid that I may have missed something in my first and second reading.
The reviews on this novel are honest and for me they spell out clearly why it meets so precisely my criteria for the near perfect story. Schlink never uses an extra word, never describes an event not absolutely essential to the story, never wastes or neglects a minute of your time. Truely, this is a story for the ages.
For weeks after reading about the middle-aged woman who would rather be exposed for an ex-Nazi guard than be found out to be uneducated in post-war Germany,I could only debate the decision of her former lover not to help her at her trial. I kept remembering how he had once loved her and how he had failed,in the course of his life, to find a relationship as important to him as the one he had had with her. I debated his choice with a vehemence I rarely feel, for any characters in a novel; afterall, it is once and for all only fiction, correct?
I was truely sorry to finish this book; it is unfortunately, a very quick read. Though it needed to be no longer in length, it was a genuine loss when it was finished and a story that I am still dizzy from.
This is a very small investment with a king sized reward!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars COMPELLING...COMPLEX...PROFOUND... July 5 2004
By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER
Winner of the Boston Review's Fisk Fiction Prize, this thematically complex story is written in clear, simple, lucid prose. It is a straightforward telling of an encounter that was to mark fifteen year old Michael Berg for life. The book, written as if it were a memoir, is divided into three parts. The first part of the book deals with that encounter.
While on his way home from school one day in post-war Germany, Michael becomes ill. He is aided by a beautiful and buxom, thirty six year old blonde named Hanna Schmitz. When he recovers from his illness, he goes to Frau Schmitz's home to thank her and eventually finds himself seduced by her and engaged in a sexual encounter. They become lovers for a period of time, and a component of their relationship was that Michael would read aloud to her. Michael romanticizes their affair, which is a cornerstone of his young life. They even go away on a trip together. Then, one day, as suddenly as she appeared in his life, she disappears, having inexplicably moved with no forwarding address.
The second part of the book deals with Michael's chance encounter with Hanna again. He is now a law student in a seminar that is focused on Germany's Nazi past and the related war trials. The students are young and eager to condemn all who, after the end of the war, had tolerated the Nazis in their midst. Even Michael's parents do not escape his personal condemnation. The seminar is to be an exploration of the collective guilt of the German people, and Michael embraces the opportunity, as do others of his generation, to philosophically condemn the older generation for having sat silently by. Then, he is assigned to take notes on a trial of some camp guards.
To his total amazement, one of the accused is Hanna, his Hanna.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Confronting One's Past
The modern German novelist Bernhard Schlink writes novels that make his readers feel and think to the very depths of their soul and mind. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Ian Gordon Malcomson
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
The Reader is a book that, from cover to cover, is engaging, enchanting, and haunting. Schlink's characters are real and accessible, and his story is both thought provoking and... Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2011 by Bethany
3.0 out of 5 stars Good
Book was in good condition - I bought 3 books from this seller, which were shipped together, yet I paid 3 times for shipping charges. Read more
Published on Nov. 4 2010 by Shelley
4.0 out of 5 stars `There's no need to talk because the truth of what one says lies in...
This novel is set in post World War II Germany and traverses a number of different and difficult issues. Read more
Published on Sept. 20 2010 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacks Emotion
There is no need for me to rehash the plot given the number of reviews and the movie treatment which has alerted many to this story. Read more
Published on July 24 2010 by Jeffrey Swystun
5.0 out of 5 stars AN AMAZING READ
I could not put this book down.. gripping, moving, are just a few words about this amazing book and author..
Published on June 25 2010 by Debbie L. Tibbles
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful novel
The Reader is a novel steeped in dark history but rich with the narrator's timeless voice.
Published on April 27 2010 by Rachel
1.0 out of 5 stars Try Reversing the Genders! I am shocked at how well-received this...
Going by all the positive reviews about this book, I am shocked at the sexual double-standard in our society. Read more
Published on April 12 2010 by Mark Sayworth
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
Bernhard Schlink has a problem; not a personal problem, although he told interviewer Jian Ghomeshi that he had struggled with it for a long time before writing The Reader ([...]). Read more
Published on Sept. 21 2009 by bento
5.0 out of 5 stars Still thinking about this book
I have not seen this movie yet but wanted to see what all the hype was about by reading the actual novel first. I read this in a day on the beach in Florida. Read more
Published on May 4 2009 by Iciclefire
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