Monday, January 5, 2009

Review: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

This is my standard shortish review of a book. Later, I will be posting more thoughts on this book and the film.

About the Book: 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 Review: This is a short book and can be devoured quickly, however, it is also very complex. It's been awhile since I've read a book that manages to explore morality through many different lenses in a way that is fresh and thought provoking. There is probably no better backdrop to examine the condition of the human heart and conscience than the Holocaust. And yet our entry into this exploration, the window we are given, is far from typical.

Written with spare prose and plenty of little bits to pull out and mull over, I read this book quickly and have enjoyed taking time to digest it. I will blog a bit more later about that. I just found out this was an Oprah Book Club pick in 1999. I was in college at that time and completely oblivious to what the world was reading. That's okay, though, I might have preconceived notions if I had known that before reading it. :)

Rating: Five stars (what a great start to 2009!)
Elements: L/S

Buy The Reader

This was read for the War Through the Generations Challenge and the Buy One Book and Read It Challenge.



sheri said...

Hey, Amy.

I did buy The Reader as one of my two books for the month that I am treating myself to. I want to see the movie very badly... so, I was hoping to read this first. I have one more book ahead of it, then I'm going straight to it. I had no idea it was an Oprah book choice. You know, there hasn't been one book on her list that I've read that I didn't like.

Have a great week!

Michelle said...

I read this many years ago but I'd like to read it again, especially with the movie being released so soon (already released?)

Beth Kephart said...

Loved this book, too. So glad it found you at the right time in your life.

Michele said...

I did not realize the movie was a book first. I, too, missed this in the earlier years. But I don't have youth to explain it. But maybe mom-dom can explain missing it? LOL Thanks for the review. I'm putting it on my list!

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

Oooh, been wanting to read this for a while, and this review makes me want to snatch it up and bump it to the top of the pile. Glad you enjoyed it!

Alessandra said...

I didn't know this was about the Holocaust. I might be reading it for the War through the Generations challenge, too. Thanks for the suggestion!

S. Krishna said...

I didn't realize this was an Oprah pick, I totally have preconceived notions about Oprah books as well...but I'm glad you liked this one, it's on my shelf to ead!

Kailana said...

I loved this book when I read it a few years ago! I was thinking with the movie I really should reread it!

bermudaonion said...

That is a great start to the new year. I can't believe I've never heard of The Reader since it was an Oprah pick.

Toni said...

I had not heard of this book either. In 1999 I also was oblivious to what the masses were reading. I was in my own little reading world. Thanks for the heads up about this one.

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Just bought this one (Amazon, I admit it). Looking forward to it, for some dark reason.

cali said...

I read this book about six years ago. It was for a book club. It is one of my favorite books. You did a great job with your brief review.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

Your "standard shortish" review was enough to pull me in. I'm adding this to my Friday Finds for the week, Amy. Are you planning to see the movie?

Paula said...

Hi Amy!
Thank you so very much for the wonderful book blooger swap package!
I waited until Christmas to open it and was just thrilled to see all my favorite things! I just got back from vacation and can't wait intil the rest of my family leaves so I can settle down in a comfy chair with some tea and read the books you sent me.

Amy said...

Sheri--I think you will enjoy it!

Michelle--it's out already.

Beth--me too. It's a mystery how all that works sometimes.

Michele--I'm beginning to suspect there are few original films. (not from source material. ;)

Rebecca--can't wait to see what you think when you have a chance to read it.

Alessandra...well not exactly about the Holocaust. It's hard to explain without giving too much away.

Swapna...I know, I find out so many things between reading books and reviewing them! least it's a short one to reread!

Kathy...well it was a pick in 1999. A long time ago!

Toni..hope you get a chance to read it! always make me laugh. I bought it at Walmart..not any better. ;)


Dawn..I did see it! I hope to have more complete thoughts tomorrow.

Paula...I'm so glad you got it and enjoyed it!

ForstRose said...

I sure wish they'd note in movie synopses when its a book adaptation and the title and author consistently. I didn't know Inkheart was a book until I stumbled across that info after I was looking for theatres and showtimes almost a year ago before I knew they'd changed the release date to the end of this month. Saw the movie for this listed when I was checking on Inkheart again yesterday and didn't know it was a book either. I'm one of those if it sounds really good I want to read the book first then see the movie and I finally bought Inkheart this week. Not sure about the reader as it sounds good but I am not sure I'm ready for all that emotional upheaval that usually comes with the Holocaust books and movies again. I also bought Sarah's Key and have many more heavy emotional books in the TBR waiting for the right time to handle them. I enjoy WWII and holocaust stories because of the history and perhaps also because to some degree I can relate to being an outcast though not on the scale of Hitler's victims.


Carrie said...

Hmm. Hadnt' heard of it. Enjoyed reading your review though, so thanks for writing it up! (Even though you are still thinking through it to some degree.)

Framed said...

I'm going to have read this before seeing the movie. It sounds like a really good book. thanks for your review.

Literary Feline said...

I will be posting my review of the movie later this week. I read the book years ago and it made quite an impression on me. I probably should have reread it before seeing the movie, but decided against it.

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