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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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Product Description

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
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The story, presented more or less convincingly, is a means of grappling with the larger questions of crime and punishment as they relate to people who personally experienced Germany's Hitler regime and to the postwar generation that tries to understand it retrospectively. The reader quickly finds that old assumptions regarding victims and perpetrators have to be questioned, at least suspended, to come to terms with that ever pressing question: "How could this happen?" Unwillingness to follow the author along this route will only leave the reader irritated, realizing perhaps that this unwillingness may be grounded in unacknowledged prejudice. Those who will follow the author may learn that some human conflicts are too traumatic to ever be resolved, but that love may overcome hate in trying to understand. Given the mostly singular perspective offered by today's media in the representation of World War II events, this is a refreshing book that should not be missed by anyone trying to fathom the more extreme diminsions of the human soul.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Having been fascinated with modern Germany throughout my life, this book literally left me in tears. Most reviews see the book on a surface level. That of a story of a young German in the late 1950's falling in love with a beautiful, older blonde, 36 year old Hanna, whom in Part 2 of the book we find out shockingly was a 21 year old SS Guard during the last two years of WWII.
Not knowing what you now know above, but being very sensitive myself to modern Germany, and the feeling of modern Germany and its contrast with the older Nazi period and the feelings that entailed, I became aware that "Hanna" was more than the "girlfriend" of young Michael Berg in the book, she was an allegory for the feelings many many Germans felt for the period itself. The deep love affair that Germany had with Nazism and the ultimate realisation of the newer generation of what happened in the past is mirrored in the book.
The book stands as it is. Although non fiction it states the case "as is". To me it is clearly anti-Nazi, although that does not mean that it does not appreciate the affair that Germans have and had with their national psyche and their past.
The first clue that the author gives us that Hanna does represent the "old" Germany is the description of the apartment block she lives in. Then the way she seduces him...(just the way many Germans perceive that the "movement" grabbed Germany itself) and the ending and her sudden disappearance (just like the Nazi regime came to a sudden end).
This book is about the deep murmurings of the German soul. And its search for forgiveness, for answers, and the suicide of Hanna and the small donation she left behind signifying the sorry state that represents the resolution of the problem for Germany in the years since the war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I can't believe how compassionate and sorry I felt for such a strong willed, sometimes disturbed, and finally SS Nazi worker woman, who came across so cold and obnoxious at times.Unless you read the book this would be hard to understand.
Although I felt more pity than love for Hanna especially through the court proceedings, I found myself really admiring her after all the contributions she made in prison.
As naive as it sounds, I was really hoping that Hanna would admit her illiteracy in court and be able to go free.
I think Hanna never believed things would get so out of hand leading to prison, but I think if she was to do it over..she would do the same thing.
One area of the book I found difficult to believe was that Hanna actually would send these girls that read to her to their death just because they would expose her illiteracy. Maybe at this point I was in denial because I felt so bad for her in this occupation. I just wanted to think more of her.
Hanna could of truly contributed so much more to the world if it was not for her illiteracy that caused a series of negative chain reactions including her death.
I wonder how Hanna's life would of been if she was literate!! HAT'S OFF TO OPRAH !!
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 STARS
At first I couldn't get past the fact that fifteen-year-old Michael had a sexual affair with a 36-year-old woman. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Sofie
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 22 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
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