Nanno Mulder
Nanno Mulder asked:

Given that this book is about Hanna, why do we learn so little about her character or motivation. How does this fit into the high appreciation by most readers?

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Rosana
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Devon Fritz I don't think that it is a given that this book is about Hanna.
Iris I wouldn't say it is about her, however she is the catalyst. Her being there and not being there affected Michael and was a major part in how he viewed the world and interacted with others. Also, we know so little about her because that is how she would have it. She never opened herself up to Michael and so both he and we know so little about her.
Susan_sunflower As others have said, the book isn't about Hanna. We are largely meant to identify with thoroughly modern post-war Michael.

If you asked Hanna to tell you her story ... you would likely get that same cow-like disbelief and anger at your rudeness. She was probably poor and rural and became displaced or her life disrupted by the war -- or she saw it as an opportunity to escape wherever she was "from" ... alone in the world and unloved, she excelled at her work and was gratified to be praised and promoted based on "doing a good job" ("following orders") ...

I would have liked to know more about what she knew and/or thought ... did she listen to the radio to get news or was she so confined in her interests that she was more concerned about keeping her tiny rudimentary apartment clean and what she might make for lunch or supper? (I think she killed herself to avoid returning to the sort of barren isolation in which she had used to live ... ymmv ... even prison was luxuriously populated by people who looked after her).

eta: It's interesting that for all the questions Michael has, in the 18 years Hanna was captive and able to be asked, he never chose to visit her -- as if absolute shunning was necessary. I suspect that this is also analogous to much of the "refusing to listen" to the testimony of the presumed guilty, the irredeemable "otherness" of the war criminal ... as-if.
Les
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Jeannine It seems to me that the book is more about Michael than Hanna. He is the one with the problem - understanding or condemnation - plus guilt on his part for ditching her.

But her illiteracy was unusual in a country with a 99% literacy rate. Can this be attributed to some childhood trauma that inured her to softness of heart? Her quickness to take offence? She was only sure of herself in the offensive mode.

Although some would say Hanna "corrupted" Michael, I submit that he was old enough to make a choice and lacked the moral fiber to let her go gently as he matured.
Caleb Delong I would have to disagree with the others who say the book is not about Hannah. The book is entirely about Hannah and without her their would be no story. Yes, Michael expresses his thoughts and opinions, however, its all trying to figure Hannah out and how she affects the people in her life, mainly Michael. Uncovering and trying to understand someones past who themselves may not entirely understand is difficult and can be emotionally exacerbating especially when love is involved. The answers by which Michael unfortunately will never uncover is due to the distance he must draw between him and the pain in their past.

Again the book may seem like it's about Michael but it's about Hannah, Michael is just trying take the path in which will lead him to discovery of her henceforth himself.
Ximena Apisdorf The book is not about Hannah is about Michael, and his perception of her. It would be very interesting the exercise of thinking how would be the other side of the story, because sometimes I have the idea that her decisions are making in the less damage possible, but in reality we know that it can't be possible.
Misty Lopez I believe this book is about Michael, and his turmoil, love and anguish so to speak about the woman Hanna and how knowing her but not knowing her and what he found to know about her, had an an affect on his life.
Rhyena Its not about Hanna. Its about the reader, as per the total. Its how his development and his life was completed impacted for decades by knowing and caring for her.
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