The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: 1997 (United States)
Categories: Literary, Historical Fiction
Source: My own copy


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.

My Thoughts:

I watched the movie before I read the book. That is never a smart move but it was especially dimwitted in this case. In my defense I didn’t know the movie was based on a book. How did I not know that?  

The big secret wasn’t so secret. I already knew the big reveal. It didn’t ruin the book for me but I did read it from a different perspective since I knew what was coming.

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more conflicted about a book. The relationship between Michael and Hanna is wrong in every way and yet there is something beautiful about it. Hanna’s past actions cannot be excused and yet I felt pity for her. 

This slim volume is packed with big messages. There isn’t much more that I can say without laying out a bunch of spoilers. I don’t want to do that. If you haven’t read this you should. Take a bit of advice? Don’t see the movie first. 

34 thoughts on “The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

  1. Nice review, Jennifer. I've been meaning to read this book for ages now, but have never got around to it. I haven't seen the movie, so that's a good start 🙂 Like your site design, by the way!


  2. Too late … I already saw the movie. 🙂 How could I resist Ralph Fiennes? I am interesting in reading the book though, especially after reading your thoughts.


  3. Mmm, I've been wanting to read this book for a long time. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I did want to see that, too! I'll take your advice and read it, first :)Best,Danielle


  4. I didn't see the movie, but did read the book not long after it was published. I felt the relationship they'd had which he was too young for, messed him up psychologically. What I found most interesting about the book was her psyche. Meaning from a female characters contribution to Nazism and working in a death camp. The book left me very sad, at these 2 people crippled by life choices.


  5. I remember reading this book a L O N G time before the movie came out – I remember it was one of the few times I was able to feel sympathetically toward a character who had done the things Hanna had done. It was certainly thought-provoking.


  6. I have have not seen the movie or the read the book. I have been wanting to see the movie. Based on your commentary it sounds like there is a twist that makes this well worth reading.


  7. I've had this book on my TBR pile for a while now. I keep looking at it and decided to read it later. I think I may have to give it a try sooner. I've never seen the move, but I do know the basic premise and secret behind the big reveal. Still it looks my worth to bump it up on the list. Thanks for the review, you made me want to move it up on my TBR list.


  8. Blogging has really helped me with my book memory! I wish I had a good record of everything I've ever read though. Sounds like it might be time for a re-read Trish! I think it would be a good readathon book, it's nice and short 🙂


  9. I've wanted to read this one, but I saw the film first and that makes me less likely to read the book. Perhaps it's been long enough that it'll be \”like new.\” 🙂


  10. I read this book in college, for a European History course. Loved it so much – saw the movie years later and liked it, though not as much as the book. I definitely agree that people should ABSOLUTELY read the book before seeing the movie.


  11. Love your review. I never got around to watching the movie or reading the book since it seemed so creepy. I may have to give it a try. I also try to read the book before seeing the movie, but if you are a bigger movie buff than book fan I would see why some would want to see the movie first then read the book if they enjoyed it. Great job at getting one of your books read from the TBR challenge. I am also participating.


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