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The Reader (Movie Tie-in Edition) Paperback – Nov 25 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 711 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (Nov. 25 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307454894
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307454898
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 711 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #175,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
This novel is set in post World War II Germany and traverses a number of different and difficult issues. In the first part of the novel, Michael Berg is taken ill in the street; Hanna Schmitz helps him and this seemingly random act of kindness changes both their lives. After this chance encounter, Michael, aged 15, embarks on a sexual affair with Hanna, aged 36. Amidst the raw physicality of this relationship, Michael reads to Hanna. And then, suddenly, Hanna leaves without warning. Michael's consequent self-doubt scars him for life.

`Often enough in my life I have done things that I have not decided to do.'

Some years later, Michael encounters Hanna as she stands trial for war crimes. Can he reconcile the Hanna he knew with the woman on trial? Hanna's past and Michael's present serve to exemplify the tension between the generation who were adults during World War II and those born immediately afterwards. This novel may have been written primarily for a German audience, but the issues are universal. All actions have consequences, regardless of personal circumstance.
In the third part of the novel, while Michael comes to terms with what has happened, there are still broader questions left hanging for the reader to consider: how do individuals come to terms with their pasts; and how do nations deal with their involvement in events such as the Holocaust?

I did not enjoy this novel: the issues raised are uncomfortable and I found it difficult to empathise with either Hanna or Michael. And yet, I find myself still thinking about those issues, the decisions that we make as individuals, the bases on which we make them, and the consequences.

`What would you have done?'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Format: Paperback
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 ([...]). No, he has an important moral and psychological problem to bring to our attention. The moral question is how we should regard and treat those whom we love or admire if we discover that they have done something morally reprehensible. The psychological question is how we can resolve the resulting, potentially tormenting ambivalence with a minimum of damage to ourselves and to those with whom we are emotionally involved to any degree. Although the problem is universal, Schlink has set his literary exploration of it in post-Nazi Germany, a time when many educated youths tasked their parents' generation with moral turpitude for allowing the Holocaust to occur and for not even punishing many of its perpetrators after the destruction of the Third Reich.
Schlink (a German legal scholar and judge) weaves the moral and the psychological, the universal and the particular into a compelling short novel. Nobody who has experienced painful disillusionment in a parent, mentor, teacher, lover, therapist, or friend will fail to see himself or herself in the unfortunate protagonist, Michael Berg. Likewise, anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with the Holocaust'or any other cold-blooded atrocity for that matter'will come face-to-face with what Hanna Arendt called 'the banality of evil' in the person of Hanna Schmitz. When Michael is 15 and she is at least a decade older, Hanna becomes his lover for some months and then mysteriously disappears. Berg remains sexually enthralled by her for decades, to the detriment of his relationships with women, including a failed marriage.
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