Saturday, January 22, 2011

"The Reader" by Bernard Schlink

Published in US: 1997
Read: 2010
Genre: Fiction
Setting: West Germany 1958 - 1984
Rating: 3
Awards: 1999 Boeke Prize (South Africa’s version of Britain’s Man Booker prize)
Review: A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Has been on my list of books to read for a while. Bought for 50 cents at Vienna library sale. Very quick read (one night). Hannah was a mystery to Michael and since this is written in the first person, she is a mystery to the reader. I would have liked the author to write every other chapter in the first person - from Michael and Hannah’s POV.  Seems “thin” to me. This might be a situation where the movie would have more substance than the book, but since I don’t like seeing Holocaust images, I probably will not see it.

Story Synopsis

A historical fiction, coming-of-age, romance novel published in 1995 with the English translation published in 1997, it is set in post WWII Germany. 

Michael Berg is fifteen years old when he meets, falls in love with and has a love affair with Hannah Schmitz, a mysterious older woman.  She leaves abruptly and the next time he sees her, it is as a law student.  She is on trial along with several other women for war crimes during the Holocaust. She is sentenced to jail - for 18 years.  The last ten, Michael, who has since gotten married, fathered a daughter and got divorced, send tapes to her - of him reading books. This is what they did in the past: he read to her, they showered, and had sex.  The ending surprised me - the day before Michael was to pick her up she hung herself.  Very sad.

Memorable Quotes: Both quotes are in the 12/3/2010 post

 “Sometimes the memory of happiness cannot stay true because it ended unhappily”....”Is this what sadness is all about? Is it what comes over us when beautiful memories shatter in hindsight because the remembered happiness fed not just on actual circumstances but on a promise that as not kept?” (37-39).

True definition of impulsiveness? 
“Often enough in my life I have done things I had not decided to do. I don’t mean to say that thinking and reaching decisions have no influence on behavior. But behavior does not merely enact whatever has already been thought through and decided. It has its own sources, and is my behavior, quite independently, just as my thoughts are my thoughts, and my decisions are my decisions.” (20).   Josh killed himself.  Is this something he decided to do?  Or what it just his behavior - independent of thought or decision?  Is this the true definition of impulsiveness?

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