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message 1: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2526 comments Mod
Starting a thread for this book.


message 2: by Marialyce (new)

Marialyce Although short, I felt this book packed a powerful punch. It brought out so many emotions in me from hatred to sympathy. I thought the characters were truly believable and the plot one that I felt could definitely have occured. It made me think that one never truly knows another even if they do share intimacies over long periods of time. It also brought to mind that we really do not know what we will do in times of extreme stress like war. We would all like to think that we would be noble, undergo the various stresses of war with the loftiest of expectations for ourselves, but I guess until you have "been there done that", you really do not know your direction.

I don't condone Hanna's behavior, but I think the author, Berhard Schlink made be understand her character with all its flaws. I truly felt this was a well written story that I was able to enjoy despite the subject matter. I am anxious to see what others felt.


message 3: by Sheila , Supporting Chick (last edited Sep 02, 2010 08:05AM) (new)

Sheila  | 3255 comments Mod
I read this book about a year and a half ago, so I have to be honest that the details are not fresh in my mind. I did really like the book though and thought it was very well written.

This book was also a very fast read, so for anyone who has been considering joining in and reading one of the COL group reads, this is a great book because you can get it read in just a couple days (or even in a day, if you are a fast reader).

Has anyone else seen the movie of this book, with Kate Winslet?

And on a side note, I'm curious as to what the feelings of others were regarding the sexual relationship between the two characters in this book. For some reason I was not as offended by the relationship in this book as I was with what happened in the book Lolita. Lolita made me feel ill, but this relationship didn't bother me as much. Maybe because the adult was the woman, and the teen was a boy (instead of an adult man with a young girl)?


message 4: by Aimee (new)

Aimee (akbaum) I really liked this book. Like Marialyce, I too felt a whole range of emotions while reading it. After finishing it I had a hard time deciding what I thought of the characters, especially Hanna. Part of me wanted to hate her, but another could see her side of all of it. That's what I liked about the book. It wasn't all neat and easy. It really made you think and see the good and bad in both the main characters.


message 5: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (jens1226) It was a very interesting read. It is hard to hate Hanna but it is also hard to like her. In so many forms of media we see the life of those who suffered at the hands of Hitler directly (which is a good thing) but we never really see the side of those who perhaps didn't know what else to do but go along with their orders and country. Its hard to really judge something like that since we have no real experience to compare it to.

Over all a good read and I enjoyed the movie version as well.


message 6: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2526 comments Mod
Sheila wrote: "I read this book about a year and a half ago, so I have to be honest that the details are not fresh in my mind. I did really like the book though and thought it was very well written.

This book..."


I think I have been hesitant to read it because I did hate HATE Lolita so much.


message 7: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2006 comments I read this book some time ago, so I don't remember a lot of the details. It was just OK for me.

I had a problem with the relationship between the two at the beginning. Not so much with the sex, I've read worse, but with the motivation. Why? I mean, I get that a teen boy would want to have sex with anyone willing, but why did she want the relationship?


message 8: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (jens1226) Jennifer W wrote: "I read this book some time ago, so I don't remember a lot of the details. It was just OK for me.

I had a problem with the relationship between the two at the beginning. Not so much with the sex..."


I think it was because she could hide her secret with the boy better than with an adult. She was also probably too shy and too ashamed of herself to have the confidence to find a relationship on which her and her partner would be on equal footing.. Dating a young boy gives her the upper hand.


message 9: by Irene (new)

Irene | 2641 comments I also read this book more than a year ago. I may need to read it again to fully participate in this conversation. I already read it twice because I found that there was so much packed into so few lines.

I agree that Hanna's decision to engage in a sexual relationship with a teen was her loneliness and desire to hde her story. I don't want to spoil anything for those who have not yet finished, but I do not think it was the war that she was hiding. In fact, I neve gt te impression that she recognized anything that happened during the war years as shameful. I also did not find mysel as revolted by the sexual encounter between the adult female and the teen boy as strongly as when fiction portrays a teen girl with an adult male. I think it was because of the way it was told. It was told from the perspective of the boy, the narrator. It is clear from the beginning that the relationship was never internalized as rape or exploitation. Rather, it was his awakening, the coming of age event that enabled him to nagotiate the tricky path between somewhat isolated kid to well adjusted adult. The relationship seems to give him the self confidence he longs for. And Hanna leaves his life at the very moment that he is ready to out grow the relationship anyway.

I can't wait for everyone t ofinish the book. I found the ending and the transformation in Hanna the most interesting. I am not exactly sure how to understand it. But, I don't want to give away her secret for those still reading the book.


message 10: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2526 comments Mod
I mailed the lady who nominated this book but havent heard anything from her. I'm sorry the discussion is faltering some I haven't read it or I'd try to step in. If anyone who has read it has thoughts or questions please feel free to share them.


message 11: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2006 comments Was he well adjusted? I thought he spent his adult years drifting with no purpose, at least, not until Hanna came back into his life. Then he had the trial to go to and the tapes to send her and he was right back in that little kid role of following her around like a puppy dog. I think, anyway, I may be mis-remembering.


message 12: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (jens1226) Here's an idea to get the topic going... Referring to the title of the book: 'The Reader' could refer to either Hannah or Michael or even the girls from the camp. Why do you think the author selected this name for the book and who do you think he is referring to specifically?


message 13: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (jens1226) I don't think that the tapes was his way of being a puppy dog.. I think he felt bad that this woman who he once loved hid these multitudes of secrets from him and from the world in general. It goes back to the point of was she a bad person or did she just go along with what was happening? He probably felt bad for this woman who had life thrust upon her and this was his way of giving her something to treasure. I don't think it meant he still loved her, more like he felt an obligation towards her.


message 14: by Marialyce (last edited Sep 04, 2010 10:59AM) (new)

Marialyce I think perhaps the title referred to Hanna. She was illiterate and young Michael. became that(a reader, a guide into a unknown world, a teacher rtc.) for her. I think possible the aftereffects of war left her emotionally drained and this affair was able to make her feel again. I loved the book because of the reading part. Hanna becomes a better person because of her having been introduced to the beauty of words. Michael is influenced by Hanna in his first introduction to both sex and love. I do believed he loved her and then becomes in the end her defender and the man who is always there for her (even if not in the physical sense).

Being able to read places one in a different world so to speak. Hanna (even though I again I am not defending her follows along like the dolt she feels she is. Would she have lead a different life if she could have read. Perhaps

I wonder how people felt about her treatment of the girls at camp? Why do you suppose she kept some alive for as long as she did? This was the one think I did not understand of her. Did it have something to do with their reading to her? Did she let them know her horrible secret? (for I felt she thought it to be more horrible than her war work)

Was Michaels' behavior towards her after he found out what she did during the war, reflective of his character or of his feelings for her even after so many years?

I don't mind helping, Tera. I read the book about a month ago but it is still pretty fresh in my mind. (although I don't have a copy of it since it was a library book)


message 15: by Marialyce (new)

Marialyce Jens wrote: "I don't think that the tapes was his way of being a puppy dog.. I think he felt bad that this woman who he once loved hid these multitudes of secrets from him and from the world in general. It goe..."


In a way, yes, I so agree. The only difference I feel is that he did still love her, Jens. I think that we often remember our first love in a very special way. Perhaps a part of us always loves that person. Michael remembers her and I think remembers what he felt for her even though he was so very young. It is part sympathy but I think he has a special place in his heart and mind for Hanna.


message 16: by Marialyce (new)

Marialyce Tera wrote: "Sheila wrote: "I read this book about a year and a half ago, so I have to be honest that the details are not fresh in my mind. I did really like the book though and thought it was very well writte..."

Tera, I think this book was ever so different from Lolita. I found lust was the main topic of that book, while need seemed to me to be the one of this book. The only comparison I saw was in the ages of the characters. I, too, was not a fan of Lolita.


message 17: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (jens1226) Marialyce.. Yes he still loved her but he wasn't in love with her like the love he felt as a long boy. Big difference. Obligation of love.


message 18: by Marialyce (new)

Marialyce On no, I guess I misunderstood and yes, it is a big difference! The falling in love stage becomes the mature growing to love stage. Sorry, Jens, that I didn't understand what you meant.


message 19: by Irene (new)

Irene | 2641 comments So, has everyone finished the book?

Spoiler warning for anyone who did not finish.

Why did Hanna transform from the rather self absorbed woman prior to the imprisonment to the perceived wise saint in prison? Was the freedom offered by no longer having to hide her illiteracy what she needed to allow herself to be known and to know others? Yet, she remained rather distant from others? Was it the gift of literature? Was the author trying to say something about the civilizing effect of literacy? If so, why did all the books read to her in the camps and by Michael not have that effect? Why did it take until she was able to read for herself? And, if it is literature, than how do you explain the rest of the Nazi believers? Hitler and most of the German people were literate and highly cultured. Di Hanna ever realize that he involvement in the massacre was wrong or did she always believe that there was no choice? I don' recall any ephany for her.

And, why did se finally commit suicide? The ending left me very perplexed.


message 20: by Antje (new)

Antje (mrsmahoney) I read all the comments and got the impression that I have diffrent opinions and feelings about the book. But I am German, and I have read this book about 4 times and still feel ashamed when I read it, and guilty. About Hanna and how less she is reflecting her actions. And although I like the book very much, because of the character of the boy, I think there are too many stereotypes in there. The uneducated, stupid woman, who just did what she was told, the boy, who adores his first love, even if he knows about her past, the transformation into a better person through literature ( or education). But anyway, obviously the "collective guilt" seems to be existent even after all this time,at least in my case.


message 21: by Marialyce (new)

Marialyce Irene wrote: "So, has everyone finished the book?

Spoiler warning for anyone who did not finish.

Why did Hanna transform from the rather self absorbed woman prior to the imprisonment to the perceived wis..."


I think perhaps she had decided to finally be able to take matters into her own hands and totally decide her fate, Irene. I also think that at that time, Germany was in such a state that Hitler seemed to many the answer to their prayers. Germany was so belittled after WW 1 that she was crushed beyond belief. They were all looking for a savior and Hitler was it. My mom had a boss who was German citizen during Hitler's rise to power and he said Hitler was a mesmerizing orator. He captured the people's minds, needs, and wants so brilliantly through the control of the press and other public arenas that he was almost guaranteed success.

I also think Hanna was trapped into what she was. Illiterate, unable to support herself, her choices were limited and she did what she needed to do in order to survive. Who knows what we in the same position would have done.

I also think that the author was desperately trying to say that literacy can "set you free" so to speak. Our appreciation for life comes through what we read (as well as other things granted) Being illiterate makes our world small, our options limited, and our life one of limited horizons.


message 22: by Antje (new)

Antje (mrsmahoney) Our appreciation for life comes through what we read (as well as other things granted) Being illiterate makes our world small, our options limited, and our life one of limited horizons.


Very wise words, Marialyce!


message 23: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 390 comments So sorry it has taken me so long to start the discussion...I totally forgot that this month was my turn...so here goes...
1. At what point did you start to understand the significance of the title?
2. Do you feel that this book is a love story?
3. Did you sympathize more with Hanna or more with Michael?


message 24: by Dero (new)

Dero I read the book and saw the movie. I am not sure that this is a love story as much as a story about vulnerability and the secrets we all carry. Michael as a young boy was vulnerable and Hanna controlled their relationship. She was his secret. The knowledge he had at her trial and did not disclose was his shame. Hanna was vulnerable at the trial and still would not disclose her secret. What she did during the war was her shame. She was in prison for her shameful actions. I think Michael sent her the tapes as a penance for not speaking up about her illiteracy at the trial.

I can't imagine what it was like for the Germans after the war to feel and carry such guilt for doing what they were constantly told was good and right. To be told that obeying your leader and loyal to your country was suddenly criminal, must have turned their world upside down.


message 25: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 390 comments Here goes another question...
What do you think of Michael's decision to send Hanna the tapes?


message 26: by Irene (new)

Irene | 2641 comments also agree with Dero that this was a story about the impact of the war on the psychie of Germans living immediately afterward. Illiteracy was the most inconsequential of the secrets they carried. There were horrors that no one wanted to look at but had to. There were parts of the story that individuals knew but did not reveal, parts that might have midigated the culpibility of another and might have revealed a deeper flaw. Why does Hanna feel more shame for illiteracy than for participating in genicide? Did her ability to finally learn to read finally enable her to like herself, ? Is that why she can transform into the wise sage of the prison? But, why then is she unable to leave the prison? Why can't she face Michael now? Did her literacy enable her to recognize the evil of her participation in the Nazi machine? Did she trade one ugly source of self loathing for an even greater one? Or, was she simply unable to function in this changed world on the outside, not knowing how to be "normal"?

I was surprised by the rather laxed prison environment. Because I had come to know Hanna as someone other than a Nazi war criminal, I was glad that she did not suffer in jail. I was rooting for her growth. But, I can't say that I am that open to others I have heard about who commit crimes during war time. If I did not know Hanna through her story, would I have allowed her to have a chance to change and grow or would I have wanted her to be locked up and sufer for the rest of her natural life? For the author, is Hanna the symbol of the generation of Germans who lived and fought during the war and Michael the generation who grew up in the wake of that experience? Does Hanna, and that entire generation, somehow have to disappear in prison or suicide, for the next one to come into their own? Earlier in our postings, someone noted the maladjustment seen in Michael's lack of commitment. I got the impression that his rootlessness was a result of the post war climate than any trauma he experienced from the sexual encounter with an older woman.


message 27: by Marialyce (last edited Sep 07, 2010 05:40AM) (new)

Marialyce I think that in Michael's sending of the tapes, is that he is trying to maintain that long ago link that he felt was meaningful to her. She was able to hold many things (the sex in particular) as a means to control him and make him part of her world. His one way of having his own control was through the reading of books. He, I think, sent the tapes so that he could have that back in a very small way. He also still, I believe, had feelings for her and therefore the tapes were also a kindness extended to her by the boy who had loved her in the past.


message 28: by Meg (new)

Meg (MegWaiteClayton) | 128 comments >He also still, I believe, had feelings for her and therefore the tapes were also a kindness extended to her by the boy who had loved her in the past.

Yes, I agree with this Marialyce. As I do with so much of what is said here. I read The Reader years ago now, and then saw the movie. I did like the movie, and thought Kate Winslett did a great job, and yet as so often happens I found myself explaining to my husband, who'd not read the book, why things that seemed a stretch in the movie made sense in the book. I thought the book was stunning.


message 29: by Christine (new)

Christine | 1310 comments Wow, lots of great insight!
I finished The Reader last night & have never seen the movie.
Hmm, where to begin?
The range of emotions this book brought out was unsettling. I had many
opinions about Hanna, and they varied every few pages, quite honestly.
I detested the sexual relationship between the two in the beginning. Possibly she used this relationship as an escape from her adult world. He was new, fresh, had his whole life ahead of him, a male who actually paid her some attention, she could control him…
1. At what point did you start to understand the significance of the title? When she started asking him to read to her, I thought about it but at the trial when it was revealed that the young, weak girls would read to her before the trip back to death and she turned to look at him, He was “The Reader”
2. Do you feel that this book is a love story? My gut reaction to this question was no way but it is quite obvious that Michael fell in love with her. He followed her at the trial longing for some kind of connection, positive or negative. Was there anything that he could have / should have done (called out to her) that would have changed things. I truly believe that this relationship absolutely did affect Michael in a negative way in that, he turned off emotions from every one and every thing around him. His marriage failed because Gertrud could not compare to Hanna.
3. Did you sympathize more with Hanna or more with Michael? Overall, I would have to say Michael. She knew better and chose to have a relationship with a child that she had to have known would end on her terms and badly. He spends his life trying to figure out why. Then the trial happens and he figures out that she is illiterate. So in his mind, he is able to shift some of the blame from himself to her insecurity. I think he makes the tapes because after the trial he can admit that he still loves her and the only way to say it without “saying it “ is to read to her. That is something he did then and can do again now. He needs to connect with her and this is the only way.
I agree that the author is showing the limitations of illiteracy. She knew she was limited in what she could do and where she could go. I think that is why she asked the judge point blank “What would you have done?” her point was that in more ways than one, she had no choices. In prison, she made herself up as this stoic woman who had committed many unthinkable things to innocent people but in her mind, it was her job. She did as she was told. Then she starts reading what the survivors had to say about her and the camps and that, to me, was the trigger to realizing what atrocities she had been apart of and how it affected not only those in the camps, but everyone who heard about them. She started letting herself go, didn’t take showers, gained weight etc. and when she knew she was being released, she felt her only option was to commit suicide. She felt guilt and felt unworthy of release. Maybe she thought one person would give her forgiveness, so she asked that her money be sent to the daughter.
But after all she did to Poor Michael in the end all she could say was tell him I said Hi. What a slap in the face! My heart broke for him.


message 30: by Roberta (new)

Roberta (wwwgoodreadscomrooonuma) | 59 comments I originally read this book back in high school and have always had a love relationship with this book. I wonder what this book would "read like" in the original German language as I've often heard that we lose things in translation...


message 31: by Susan (new)

Susan Gabriel (SusanGabriel) | 10 comments I thought this was a fascinating book. Well-written. Intriquing. From what I can remember, having read it a little over a year ago, it had a lot to say about secrets and redemption.


message 32: by Julie (new)

Julie (julmille) | 390 comments Here goes just a general question/topic...
what was your favorite and/or not so favorite part of the story?


message 33: by January (last edited Sep 10, 2010 01:29PM) (new)

January | 84 comments After reading the description and reviews I thought I would really like this book, but I didn't like it at all! It was very slow and boring and I honestly didn't care what happened by Part 3 of the book!

I felt nothing for Hannah or the kid (I can't even remember his name), but she calls him kid throuhout the whole book! I was sick at the fact that this older women seduced this boy and in turn ruined his life! He was never the same and could never have a decent relationship with another women because she screwed him up so bad! When she went to trial I still felt nothing...just like the kid kept saying...I felt the same way. The last few chapters were touching in a way, but in a way they were just sad! This kid devoted his whole life to this women and I found it to be very pathetic! By the end of this book I just wanted it to be over with and thought about just not finishing it at all. I usually love books that relate to the Holocaust, but this book just happened to be set in that time period and really didn't have much to do with it at all.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. It was only 200 or so pages and it felt like it was 1000 to me. This book could have been written in 50 pages or less without all the boring details and relayed the same thing I felt when I was done reading it. I felt like I wasted a few hours of my life on some stupid story that I could never get back!!!!

Oh and also this remineded me of the reason I steer clear away from Oprah's Book Club Books...they are never worth a flip!


message 34: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany | 92 comments Antje wrote: "I read all the comments and got the impression that I have diffrent opinions and feelings about the book. But I am German, and I have read this book about 4 times and still feel ashamed when I read..."

Antje,
Thanks for sharing your feeling about collective guilt. I really did not have that in mind when I was reading, but I can really see how the book would stir up these feelings in someone who is German. One of the things I like about the story is the complexity of the characters. One of the things I admired about Hanna was her honesty during the trial. She did not make excuses and tell the court that she was just doing what she was told to do. I also think she knew she would be sentenced and was willing to accept punishment for her crimes, so revealing information that showed she could not have written the report was irrelevant at that point.


message 35: by Donna (new)

Donna Greene (Donaverde) | 9 comments I am new to the group and read The Reader over a year ago. As I remember, I really enjoyed the book and felt that there were many layers of nuance. Both the kid and Hannah have secrets. Both are lonely and neither are introspective enough to think about what paths they are taking. Hannah loves literature and stories, but does not analyze what they mean. The kid also loves words, he becomes a lawyer right? But also does not think deeply about his own life. What does anyone make of the fact that it takes him years to figure out that Hannah is illiterate?


message 36: by Carrie (new)

Carrie (missfryer) | 532 comments I also loved this book. I just recently lent it to a dear friend. I hope she likes it too!
I was impressed with the movie; I think it did the book justice.


message 37: by Chris (new)

Chris (ChrisTMax) | 221 comments I enjoyed it and the movie too, I must admit that like Donna I wondered why it took him so long to figure out her illiteracy?


message 38: by Donna (new)

Donna Greene (Donaverde) | 9 comments Brenda wrote: "Jennifer W wrote: "Was he well adjusted? I thought he spent his adult years drifting with no purpose, at least, not until Hanna came back into his life. Then he had the trial to go to and the tapes..."

He seems to have been more mature for his age. Something drew him to her. I think that Hannah and he took advantage of each other. He was able to have every teenage boys dream, a willing and practices sexual partner- she a reader who would not question why she wanted to be read to..


message 39: by Donna (new)

Donna Greene (Donaverde) | 9 comments Christine wrote: "Wow, lots of great insight!
I finished The Reader last night & have never seen the movie.
Hmm, where to begin?
The range of emotions this book brought out was unsettling. I had many
opinions..."


Interesting thought, although Michael was "the reader" he was uanble to read what was literally before his eyes; Hannah's history the consequences of his affair with her, and of course he is blind to her illiteracy. Hannah, however can see people and things quite clearly and can read behavior and human character. She chose the weakest girls to read to her in the camps- I though of it at the time as a selfless act designed to give those girls more time. Perhaps they would be less likely to delve into the why, just as Michael does not delve into the why- just lives for the moment.
When she becomes able to read for herself, perhaps for the first time she is introspective about what she has done.


message 40: by Jenna (new)

Jenna (jens1226) It took him so long because Hannah was so deeply ashamed of her inability to read that she does -anything- possible to hide it. Even to the point of running from a -promotion- something any normal person would be thrilled about. That's why she picked Michael to be with.. He was a kid and with his inexperience both in women and in life, it was much easier to hide. By letting him take control of things (such as ordering her meal because she couldn't read the menu) she was boosting his confidence as a young man and making him feel important when in fact she was deceiving him.


message 41: by Maureen (new)

Maureen (Meg9000) | 84 comments I just snagged a copy of this from the library yesterday. I've finished Part One and planned to finish the book this evening, but instead had to work late. In any event, I have found the book so far to be very, very different from most books, and extremely thought provoking. After Atlas Shrugged, I am glad to have such an easy and pleasant read.

The book was especially pleasant for me to read since I lived in Germany for a year, in a small village. It was so easy to picture exactly what the author depicted in terms of the apartment, the village, the stores, even down to the carpenters working at one of the houses, as we had the same thing across the street.

I found the descriptions of the narrator's thoughts and feelings also to be so pleasantly reminiscent of that coming of age period of childhood. For example, in Chapter 7 after he first lost his virginity, he describes so well, his awareness of being at the precipice of adulthood, lingering with one foot still in childhood, and sad because he knew his next step would take him into adulthood, where he would leave his childhood behind, and that he would never be with his family in such innocence again.

No big revelations, but before I got into the meat of the story, I just wanted to comment on how pleasant Part One was in conveying the innocence of coming of age.


message 42: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 91 comments I agree, Meg. "Thought provoking" is an excellent description of this book. I found myself thinking of this story/book long after I'd finished it.
I, too, saw the movie and thought they did an admirable job.


message 43: by Maureen (new)

Maureen (Meg9000) | 84 comments Finished Part 2 about the trial

So far, more questions are raised in this book than answers are provided, and I guess that is the point of the book. I am sure the answers to the questions are very varied and very individual. Part 2 seems to be all about the guilt of the post war nation. “What would you do?”, asks Hannah twice during the trial. “What should our second generation have done, what should it do with the knowledge of the horrors of the extermination of the Jews?”, asks Michael Berg. How can Hannah prefer to be convicted of a crime rather than have others find out she cannot read – something that is so easily rectified? And how can Michael Berg feel that he was just as guilty and responsible because he loved someone who had committed a crime, even though he didn’t know so at the time?

Wow.


message 44: by Megan (new)

Megan I just finished this book last night and have read all the previous comments. I agree with much of what has already been said so I won't be repetitive. This book certainly evoked a multitude of emotions and was very thought provoking.
I must say that The Reader is one of the best books I have read in a long time and I never would have read it if it hadn't been given to me by a friend.


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