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The Reader

by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink X
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
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  • First Published:
    Mar 1999, 218 pages

    Mar 1999, 218 pages


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There are currently 30 reader reviews for The Reader
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Although I'm not a big fiction fan, I loved this book. It is so tragic, but not in a Romeo and Juliet sort of way. Its more profound than that. I liked how the author expresses the main character's emotional and moral struggles aloud. The way Micheal is always going back and forth with his thoughts and feelings brings him to life, and has us pondering what we would do in his shoes.
S.L. B.

I'll be honest...I didn't finish reading the book,it just got so impossibly boring! Drawn out,bland and gray in color. I can
see where it might be appealing to some but not to me. This was a good book as far as writing goes but I very much hope
the aurthor does better on the next one.
Your Mum

Having read and finished the reader one gets to know the characters very well. One is absorbed into the motions and the actions of each of the main characters. Throughout the book one can always sense a part of Hanna’s naivety and her simple perspective of life. In this situation there is no right or wrong. Whichever option she took some would sympathise, others wouldn’t.
   It is easy for me to argue that she shouldn’t have let those people die – it is the obvious humane answer. But one cannot ignore there was a war on; people were going to die. Hanna thought she was in the right by doing her duty. So did all of her colleagues. The difference between her and her colleagues is that they understood what they had done wrong. She didn’t. I am trying to look at this situation without any hindsight as to what happens but as if I have only read up to this point in the book.
   It is incorrect to say following orders is a sufficient excuse for any action. Of course it is. But why? If I was your boss and told you to jump off a cliff would you? I know I wouldn’t, and thus I do not have this feeble excuse for jumping of a cliff. It is a similar scenario. Obviously my version was far more radical and extreme. Hanna knew she was sending these people to die. She says ‘the new ones came, and the old hat to make room for the new ones. So she clearly knew that she was sending these ‘ones’ to their death. My argument is no matter how strongly someone pushes you; you do not break the barrier of life and death.
   In a way when Hanna phrased the question to the judge it could be considered the right thing to do. It threw him into an unpleasant position. This didn’t help her legal court case; it put the judge into a situation where whatever the outcome he would seem in the wrong. What it did do however was infuriate the judge giving him a bad view on Hanna. Michael attends as part of a legal seminar, and the discussion of the trial. He understands what is happening and helps explain it to the reader. With his knowledge the reader gets into the situation and can understand what is happening and how it is so difficult. The Judge is sympathetic towards Hanna; he like Michael understands that she doesn’t understand what she is doing wrong or the problems her question could cause her. When she looks at him she tries to communicate with him, she is desperate.
   One might argue that Hanna didn't wilfully collaborate with Hitler's genocide and that her decisions were driven only by a desire to hide her secret. I personally would argue this point as my main argument and would say that this alone exonerates Hanna.
R. Smiley

I am not sure the author of this review actually finished the novel. Michael does not live "happily ever after," and to suggest that this is how the novel ends is to clearly devalue the most significant moral themes that the novel presents.

Hmmm...bit of a tear jerker wasn't it?

The moral dilemmas presented in The Reader keep the novel developing long after you've read it. The kind of questions asked are those which have a thousand answers and none at all. Hanna's desparate question to the Judge, "What would you have done?", says it all, and you know that the question is not solely between Hanna and the Judge.

It's a complex web of philosophy, morality and guilt, that the narrator has become tangled in, or rather is attemting to work his way out. Whether his attempts are in vain is another of those questions.

Although the content is compelling, I feel, as with all translated books, that The Reader has lost something that made it complete.

Better get learning fluent German then.


Poison Ivy
As far as books go, Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, is a must. It is a fascinating book that depends completely on emotions--both the protagonist's and the reader's. By allowing the reader to accompany the young Michael Berg through his emotional and physical maturation, Schlink paves the way for a union between the reader of the book and the reader in the book. As a 15-year-old boy, Michael's first sexual experience is with the 36-year-old Hannah. Too young to cope with the overwhelming power of sexual gratification and emotional attachment, the protagonist is shaped and molded in ways even he couldn't understand. Despite this inverted power struggle, Hannah becomes an idolized illusion for Michael. During the trial, he comes across as a man whose buried guilt has turned him into a jaded reviewer of history, justice, laws written and unwritten. Michael Berg's detached yet riveted interest in Hannah's trial parallels and reflects his inner struggle with love, confusion, and guilt. Can one ever be rid of the instinct to dominate, violate, and control? Whether in war or in personal relationships, power struggles ignite . . . explode. . . implode. . . and leave their ineradicable mark on humanity.

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