Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Book Review: The Reader

The Holocaust has featured in hundreds of movies and books. It is difficult to know just how another book might look at the issue differently. But Bernhard Schlink's The Reader does just that. Michael Berg is 15 years old. One day, Michael becomes ill on the street and a woman, Hanna, twice his age, assists him to clean up and get home. A few days later, Michael visits the woman to thank her. They become involved in a sexual relationship and Michael becomes obsessed with Hanna. As their relationship continues, Michael experiences euphoria and confusion - Hanna is not all she seems. She refuses to tell him much about herself and her past. One day, Michael visits Hanna only to discover that she has disappeared. He is grief-stricken but life goes on. Years later, Michael becomes a law student and is required to sit in on a trial of a number of women accused of war crimes. He is stunned to realise that Hanna is one of the women. But things do not seem to make sense until Michael discovers the painful truth about Hanna and what she has been hiding. The Reader explores the difficult issues facing a generation of Germans who have to live under the shadow of the people they know and love being involved in profound evil. In its sparsely told story we enter into the pain of people trying to come to terms with the complex interplay of guilt, love, lust, forgiveness, motivation, and collective conscience. It's a powerful meditation that doesn't give easy answers but invites the reader to enter into the confusing experience of trying to deal with profoundly complex issues. It is a Holocaust story with a difference. It is fresh and provocative and will haunt your thoughts long after you have finished reading. Related Links

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