The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
rating: 5 of 5 stars
Bernhard Schlink's The Reader is a truly remarkable book. Without giving too much away, the novel presents a story of love, loss, guilt and atonement that is an allegory for Post WWII Germans' struggles with Germany's Nazi past.
How do you deal with the fact that you loved and learned from those who participated in something of great evil? How can you adapt yourself to a heritage of genocide and destruction? Are you guilty because you find yourself loving the perpetrators of heinous crimes? Can you, ought you, be able to forgive such criminals? These are the haunting questions of The Reader
The most intriguing and thought provoking aspect of the book is its ambiguity. We are left unclear about the motives and reflections of the character of Hanna, and not entirely sure about the moral status of the main character and narrator Michael Berg.
The Illiteracy of Hanna is used to powerfully convey how someone without the ability to read simply does not live and operate in the world the rest of us take for granted. It is chilling.
To read this book is to enter a world of uncertainty, confusion, and moral indecisiveness. It is disturbing and difficult; it will make you think a great deal.
Finally the prose style is rich and rewarding. Very polished and deeply engaging. Of course it was originally written in German and I read the translation in English, so I can't speak for the German prose.
I recently saw the film The Reader as well. The film is very faithful to the text, with appropriate adaptations and omissions. The acting, particularly Kate Winslet, is both powerful and passionate.
This story makes you rethink human nature and your moral convictions from top to bottom. I highly recommend the novel and the film.
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