Jeff Scott's Reviews > The Reader

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
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's review
Mar 13, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 1001books, fiction, classics
Read in March, 2009

I love this book. I loved the relationship (what falling completely in love with someone feels like and the consequences of it.) I also liked how the author played with the concepts of guilt particular to Germany after World War II. When the next generation had to deal with their parents actions as part of Nazi Germany.

Some great lines from the book:

"I know that I found it beautiful. But I cannot recapture its beauty." p.12

It was more as if she had withdrawn into her own body, and left it to itself and its own quiet rhythms, unbothered by any input from mind, oblivious to the outside world. It was the same obliviousness that weighed in her glance and her movements when she was pulling on her stockings. But then she was not awkward, she was slow-flowing, graceful, seductive--a seductiveness that had nothing to do with breasts and hips and legs but was an invitation to forget the world in the recesses of the body. p. 16

"Sometimes I had the feeling that all of us in his family were like pets to him. The dog you take for a walk, the cat you play with that curls up in your lap, purring, to be stroked--you can be fond of them, you can even need them to a certain extent, and nonetheless the whole thing--buying pet food cleaning up the cat box, and trips to the vet--is really too much. Your life is elsewhere. I wish that we, his family, had been his life." p 30

"Hanna could neither read nor write.

That was why she had people read to her. That was why she had let me do all the writing and reading on our bicycle trip and why she had lost control that morning in the hotel when she found my note, realized I would assume she knew what it said, and was afraid she'd been exposed. That was why she had avoided being promoted by the streetcar company; as a conductor she could conceal her weakness, but it would have become obvious when she was being trained to become a driver. That was also why she had refused the promotion at Siemens and became a guard. That was why she had admitted to writing the report in order to escape a confrontation with an expert. Had she talked herself into a corner at the trial for the same reason? Because she couldn't read the daughter's book or the indictment, couldn't read see the openings that would allow here to build a defense, and thus could not prepare herself accordingly? Was that why she sent her chosen wards to Auschwitz? To silence them in case they had noticed something? And was that why she always chose the weak ones in the first place?" p 132

I had no one to point at. Certainly not my parents, because I had noting to accuse them of. The zeal for letting in the daylight, with which, as a member of the concerntration camps seminar, I had condemned my father to shame, had passed, and it embarrassed me. But what other people in my social environment had done, and their guilt, were in any case a lot less bad than what Hanna had done. I had to point to Hanna. But the finger I pointed at her turned back to me. I had loved here. Not only had I loved her, I had chosen here. I tried to tell myself that I had known nothing of what she had done when I chose her. I tried to talk myself into the state of innocence in which children love their parents. But love of our parents is the only love for which we are not responsible. p. 170


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03/13/2009 page 100

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