Susan's Reviews > The Reader

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
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's review
Sep 19, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: own-in-book-format, fiction, historical-fiction, read-in-2009, reading-challenges, regrettable-reads

I'll start my review by telling you that I have not seen the movie based on this book - I thought I wanted to, but now I don't really see the appeal.

15 year-old Michael Berg becomes ill on his way home from school one day and is rescued by Hanna Schmitz, a streetcar conductor more than twice his age. When he is well again, he seeks out Frau Schmitz and becomes her lover. Michael eventually spends more time with friends from school and feels as if he is betraying his relationship with Hanna, and they understandably begin to drift apart. Then one day, Hanna completely disappears from his life. The next time he sees her, he is a young law student, and Hanna is on trial for crimes she committed as a prison guard at Auschwitz. As Hanna attempts to defend herself (badly,) Michael realizes that see is harboring a secret she feels is even more shameful than her crimes as part of the Third Reich.

I was on a wait-list for weeks at my library to get my hands on this book. I had high hopes when I began reading, but in the end, I was disappointed. The writing fell extremely flat, and it simply failed to engage me in the story. The entire novel read like a story outline - what happened to the meat? The plot was full of promise that was never delivered. It was so dry and thin, it's only real virtue being the fact that I was able to read it really quickly.

I felt nothing for the characters - they were shallow, and I did not care at all what happened to them. There was no development of any of the characters, and they seemed as flat as cardboard cut-outs. The relationship between Michael and Hanna that so many people call "erotic" and "romantic", I found to be superficial at best. I felt no emotional pull between the main characters - they were cold and unfeeling on the pages, and left me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I really wish I had chosen another book for my reading challenge. I feel cheated by The Reader, as if it was a complete waste of my time. It was very simplistic and redundant. I kept waiting for the plot to thicken, and SPOILER ALERT - it never did! I cannot recommend this one to anyone, so read at your own risk.
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Reading Progress

September 19, 2008 – Shelved
September 19, 2008 – Shelved as: own-in-book-format
March 28, 2009 –
page 21
Started Reading
March 29, 2009 – Shelved as: fiction
March 29, 2009 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
March 29, 2009 – Shelved as: read-in-2009
March 29, 2009 – Shelved as: reading-challenges
March 29, 2009 – Finished Reading
June 8, 2009 – Shelved as: regrettable-reads

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Tony I agree with your comments. Those of us who felt dissatisfied with the book have all alluded to the writing style. Your comment that it reads like a story outline is spot on! Dull, flat, lifeless. The subject of the post-war generation in Germany coming to terms with their parents' crimes is a huge and fascinating subject to which this book adds nothing. I have the film on my PVR but can't be bothered to watch it.

Oriana Mata Valerii I watched the movie first and then wanted to read the book because I thought it would be equally enchanting. It wasn’t. The movie is wonderful. Amazing script, beautifully acted, great music, great cinematography. The director’s work is very sharp and meticulous. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend you to do it, it’s a thousand times better.

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