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The Reader

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  177,450 ratings  ·  10,569 reviews
Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.

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
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published June 26th 1997 by Pantheon (first published 1995)
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Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* I took it to mean there are situations you shouldn't involve yourself in, unless you are forced to (because of a hefty price like protecting your life…moreI took it to mean there are situations you shouldn't involve yourself in, unless you are forced to (because of a hefty price like protecting your life and self-defense.)(less)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  177,450 ratings  ·  10,569 reviews

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Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: german-language
What About the Children?

The Reader is a profound exposition of the 'second generation' issues concerning moral guilt for the Holocaust. But it is, I think, also relevant more generally to the way in which human beings get ensnared incrementally into the evils of their society. We are all inevitably involved in this larger problem. And, like the SS guards at a Nazi death camp, we are unaware of the moral peril of our situation, and unwilling to remove ourselves from that situation even when its h
booring. is that a review?? this was just very flat to me. i wasn't offended by the subject matter - i could care less about the "scandalous" elements. but the writing was so clinical and thin. at one point, i blamed the translation, but c'mon - its not that hard to translate german to english (i can't do it, of course, but it's supposed to be one of the easiest translations) i have nothing helpful to say about this except i was bored bored bored. the characters were unappealing, the "twists" we ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Der Vorleser = The Reader, Bernhard Schlink

The Reader is a novel by German law professor and judge Bernhard Schlink, published in Germany in 1995.

The story is told in three parts by the main character, Michael Berg. Each part takes place in a different time period in the past.

Part I begins in a West German city in 1958. After 15-year-old Michael becomes ill on his way home, 36-year-old tram conductor Hanna Schmitz notices him, cleans him up, and sees him safely home. He spends the next three m
Nov 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2009
I have the feeling there's more than one way of looking at this book. On one hand it can be viewed as a bildungsroman, it follows Michael Berg since the age of 15 till full maturity. On the other hand, it's the post-war German generation coming to terms with their past, the Nazi crimes and their parents' guilt. Guilt, actually, is a recurring theme in the novel: Hanna is guilty of war crimes, Michael is guilty for betrayal (plus he feels guilty for having loved Hanna and asks himself if that mak ...more
Emily May
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, 2012
I'm not really sure why this book is considered one of the best books of all time and managed to make into the big 1001 list. Most of the time, even if I don't like a book, I tend to understand why someone else picked it. In this case, I'm rather clueless. Is it, perhaps, that people see in it some message about humanity when Hanna won't purchase her freedom with the secret she has kept hidden for years? Is it the vivid sexual tale of a teenage boy with an older woman? Are we supposed to be shoc ...more
Whitney Atkinson
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
This is the deep character development and type of writing that i've been craving. A book that made me think and ask so many questions. Sometimes I felt like I was struggling through really heavy writing, but the actual story itself and the moral questions that arise from its telling were really, really interesting and I surprised myself with how much I found myself contemplating this novel. Someone told me there's a movie with Kate Winslet and she is my actual wife so i'm gonna go track that do ...more
There are some books you know will stay with you forever, and Bernhard Schlink's The Reader is definitely one of them. It has been highly critically acclaimed, winning the Boston Book Review's Fisk Fiction Prize, and it deserves all the praise it has received.

The Holocaust is a difficult, though much covered, subject matter, and this novel has a sure touch and an appealing lack of judgment with it. The story begins in the world of almost-childhood of fifteen-year-old Michael Berg, recovering fr
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fiction
Great book.Wonderful piece and remotely expressed Words flowing like water in oceans.
I'd Miss someone with that book.
As the Young Lady entangled with teen.
Which flows the flawless love between them even when she got life imprisonment, She was turned to old. And Teen was turned to Man.
Time had changed, but their love sustained as he gave her recordings of stories.
Lovely Book.
Also, Watch movie based on this novel, My one of favourite actress, the drama Queen Kate Winslet's performance was surreal
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is clearly structured. Also the choice of words is at a normal level and therefore also suitable for beginners in classical, great literature.
This novel breaks so many taboos, it is hard to know where to start reflecting on it. And yet, its plot is not unrealistic or uncommon.

It is about a sexual relationship between a young man and an older woman.

It is about illiteracy and shame.

It is about crimes against humanity, committed out of helplessness and an egocentric wish to hide one's own weakness.

It is about the Holocaust weighing on the shoulders of post-1945 Germany's population.

It is about the past being reshaped in memory when furt
Sep 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-german
The biggest problem I had with this book was the fact that it made me feel...nothing.
I didn't feel connected to the characters or to any part of the plot. This is quite a bummer, as it deals with a pretty heavy topic.
I feel like the author intended to write the story this way though, because the writing style in general has a certain type of "coldness" to it, and the true feelings of a character are never really explored. Some people might not be bothered by this, but I personally simply prefe
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
" " I ... I mean ... so what would you have done? "
Hanna meant it as a serious question. She did not know what she should or could have done differently, and therefore wanted to hear from the judge, who seemed to know everything, what he would have done. "

This same question is posed in other situations throughout this book.
Should Michael, being the only other person to know Hanna's secret, have exposed this secret in order to help her during the trial?
Should Michael have been more understand
Steven Godin
There have been many ways over the years in which literature has found a path to deal with the Holocaust and its consequences, but a book about the inability to be able to read might not seem the most obvious. Yet in terms of attracting a mass audience, something that Schlink has clearly done, this German novel with illiteracy at its heart published back in the mid-90's, has been a phenomenon amongst readers.

Bernhard Schlink's forth and easily most popular novel opens in post-war Germany when a
Jun 09, 2010 rated it did not like it
It's too simple to say I read any single book because I want to read it. There are dozens of reasons I'll pick up a particular title: I like the author; I like the subject matter; the book is an award winner; the book comes with many trusted recommendations; I was supposed to read the book in high school and I feel guilty because I played Goldeneye on my N64 instead. I will freely admit that I read War and Peace simply to say I read War and Peace. I'd take it to the cafeteria every day and let p ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Goash! What a plot! What delivery! This is the perfect case for show don't tell done in just the way that even when we get told something, we see it.

A lot of painfully salient topics raised in here. Gross ones, of course. Horrible ones. Stanley Milgram would've been so effing proud...

Review to follow.

Maybe I did write our story to be free of it, even if I never can be. (c)
Hanna became absorbed in the unfolding of the book. But it was different this time; she withheld her own opinions; she d
Nandakishore Varma
There are certain books which have an impact on one, without one being able to put one's finger exactly on the reason why. 'The Reader' by Bernhard Schlink is such a book.

The experience of reading this book was like taking a train ride through a pleasant landscape: you mosey along comfortably, enjoying the view and the climate, settled and relaxed. The journey is comfortable enough without being anything out of the ordinary. Then suddenly, the train enters a section of the countryside which is b
Mar 14, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book just fell short with me, on oh so many levels. One thing that did intrigue me and that I have not yet seen much of is the perspective of Germans after the Holocaust and their views on the Third Reich and Hitler's agenda, especially of the younger generation of that time. That was really the only thing that struck me about this book. The rest was just not enough. For one, the affair between MIchael and Hanna was deplorable. Is it supposed to not be as bothersome because it is an older w ...more
Just not for me.
Hated both characters.
I didn't feel sorry for either of them.
[Before reading: posted late 2009]

Haven't read it, but was completely blown away by the movie. Masterpiece! Kate Winslet was even better than I'd expected, and that's saying quite a bit.

Maybe I'll finally get serious about improving my German... no question about the appropriateness of the book.
[After reading: posted early 2019]

It's funny how all the books you read link up inside you and start talking to each other. I finished Der Vorleser a week or so ago, and for once I
Chadi Raheb
Jul 18, 2020 marked it as watched-the-movie-instead  ·  review of another edition

"You don't have the power to upset me. You don't matter enough to upset me."

Best quote ever :)
An Intensely powerful story and I'm still thinking "What do I do with this one??"

15 year old Michael Berg becomes sick and suddenly meets Hanna Schmitz, a much older woman who lives in his neighborhood. She helps him and they begin a relationship. He reads to her, and the intimacy is so strong that I'm not even sure how I should feel about it. It feels real and raw, and dripping in lust, while at the same time, it feels wrong, and I'm left feeling something hollow and wondering if the moral que
Timothy Urges
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lust, love, obsession, or compulsion?

15 year old Michael falls in love with 36 year old Hanna. They make love and he reads to her every night. He questions his actions and Hanna's reactions, his faults and hers. He can't decide who is at blame.

Years later, she is on trial for the choices she made prior to meeting Michael. He watches from a distance, still questioning who she is to him.

Mercy and longing saturate this book. Novels that make me feel something are rare. This one took me somewhere.
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the German writer Bernhard Schlink wrote an appealing and critical novel concerning human and moral questions and judgments
Priscila Jordão
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, alemã
If Hanna’s illiteracy was used by the author as a metaphor to portray the ignorance that allowed an entire generation to perpetrate, or, at least, to comply with the crimes of WWII? I’m not so sure about it. After all, the germans were not more ignorant than other people at the time. Far from it.

My hypothesis is that Hanna’s illiteracy represents the inability of reading behind daily events and interpreting their possible consequences, which may sometimes be catastrophic.

For Hanna, there was n
Sep 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translated, owned
I thought this was an interesting (if not somewhat disturbing) story, but not one that particularly blew me away. The questions of morality and complicity are intriguing as well; probably my favorite parts of the story where Michael's recollections of his experiences and trying to make sense of which were good, how he should feel about them in hindsight, etc. Glad I finally read this because it is so famous but not one that I'm in love with. ...more
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There will always be some substantial gaps among peoples. This gap, however, is not of caste or class or gender. It is the gap of shallowed empathetic experience. The Reader is about this gap. It is about the mystery of what something must have felt like and this 'something' in the book is Holocaust. Michael Berg, the narrator, is the 'second generation' of the Holocaust. His relationship with an older woman, one of the SS guards at the Nazi camp, is the relationship of the 'first generation' wi ...more
Friederike Knabe
May 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: german-lit
The topic of the Holocaust is raised almost every day in some manner. Many books have been written about the topic. Whether in studies, documentaries or fictional accounts, finger-pointing at the perpetrators of the crimes against millions has been part of the process of coming to terms with the Nazi atrocities. For Imre Kertesz, renowned author and Nobel laureate of 2002, there is no other topic. Yet, when he reflects on the traumatic impact of Auschwitz, "he dwells on the vitality and creativi ...more
This is not a book that I wanted to read. So many times while reading books about the Holocaust, I feel a disconnectedness from the events. It's a mixture of two things. The first is that the sheer scope of events is just too large, too horrific, for one person's words to do justice to it. The second, and this could partly be due to the first problem, is that I detest being manipulated by my books. With a lot of Holocaust literature the villains are stock characters; the malevolent Colonel with ...more
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whenever a film is coming out that is based on an acclaimed book, I try to read the book first (knowing that the reverse order almost never happens for me). The Reader is the latest such circumstance, and I'm glad I made the time for this quick read. The book centers on the reflections of a man who, as a teenager in post WW-II Germany, had a passionate love affair with a reticent and mysterious older woman. Mere months later, she disappears from his life. The rest of the book explains why, and t ...more
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Bernhard Schlink is a German jurist and writer. He became a judge at the Constitutional Court of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1988 and has been a professor of public law and the philosophy of law at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany since January 2006.

His career as a writer began with several detective novels with a main character named Selb--a play on the German word for "sel

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“There's no need to talk about it, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does.” 450 likes
“I'm not frightened. I'm not frightened of anything. The more I suffer, the more I love. Danger will only increase my love. It will sharpen it, forgive its vice. I will be the only angel you need. You will leave life even more beautiful than you entered it. Heaven will take you back and look at you and say: Only one thing can make a soul complete and that thing is love.” 354 likes
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