Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review - The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

It has been more than a month since I did a proper review on my blog. Though I have been reading a lot of books lately, the reviews I post are on Goodreads. So last night as I finished reading The Reader, I decided right away that this review must be up on my blog. So, here you go. 

From the book cover: For 15 year old Michael, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. Before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems.

Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to find Hanna in the dock. The woman he loved is a war criminal. Much about her behavior during the trial does not make sense. Hanna must answer for a horrible crime, but she is desperately concealing an ever deeper secret...

My take: I had heard a lot about the movie and was curious to read the book first. In any case, I don't think I shall go and watch the movie now. No, not because the book was bad. It is an outstanding work, albeit a depressing one. 

When I started off reading it, I was expecting to see just another affair between a fifteen year old boy and a woman more than twice his age. There was nothing new there. But what caught my attention was the way the author has etched Hanna. She is passionate but closed at the same time, not revealing the person who she really is. And her fascination with books and literature was another thing that made me like her character a lot more.

The book is divided into three parts and is narrated in the first person by the protagonist, Michael. The first part deals with the affair that goes on between Hanna and him. The second part deals many years later during the trial and the third part shows the repercussions of the affair and the crime which Hanna was involved in. It also shows glimpses into Michael's life and how his affair with Hanna later on affects all the relationships in his life like a domino effect. 

Now, coming to the title, Hanna makes Michael read out loud to her, from Odyssey to War and Peace. And the bibliophile in me was delighted to come across titles that have already been quickly added on my to read list. Yes, I must confess that I have a lot of classics to revisit since school days. So, if you are a hard core bookworm like yours truly, do give this book a read. 

The book also deals with war and the effects of Holocaust, making it a grave read. The horrors of concentration camp, the plight of Jews, gas chambers are all mentioned in passing yet making a deep impact. I have not read much books on this other than the Diary of Anne Frank and this book is recommended if you would like to know more about that period. The original book was written in German and I read the translated version. I wish I could read the original books as opposed to its translated versions because personally, I feel a bit of the soul of the book gets lost in translation. 

I do not want to reveal more about the title and whether Hanna was guilty of the crime that she's accused of as it would spoil the book for you in case you are planning on reading it. At two hundred odd pages, the book was quite a short read and I finished it in a day. This is a tragic love story (spoiler alert!), so be prepared to have your heart broken towards the end. 

Linking this post to Write Tribe Pro Blogger Challenge


  1. Great review. You approach it in a unique way. I hadn't heard of the movie.

    1. Thank you, Francene! I would suggest you read the book first before watching the movie.

  2. A good review. Understanding the soul of the book was very interesting.
    You are a good Reviewer, Aathira. Keep it up.

    1. Thanks so much, Mr. Parsa. When the book is interesting, it captivates you right till the last page :)

  3. Holocaust never ceases to amaze me- in a horrific way. How can one human do this to another? Did you feel the pain too while reading the book.. if you did then the writer must be very nimble with her words. This is a lovely review Aathira..

    1. Yes. It's a nightmare come true. It's is quite vividly described, Hanna's crime. It's impossible not be moved after reading it. The author has done a great job indeed.

      Thank you, Ina!

  4. wow this is really interesting... if not the book, i'll surely watch the movie... :D


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