The Next Best Book Club discussion

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message 1: by Lori, Super Mod (last edited Aug 01, 2009 06:40AM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10062 comments Mod
Since this is our book and movie pair, we will have 3 threads to discuss. Two spoilers and one non spoiler.....

SPoilers on the book will be dicussed here.


message 2: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10062 comments Mod
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/8...

I am closing the original thread that was posted in "Wanna Discuss THis Novel" and linking it here for you to reference. I believe it has spoilers for both the movie and the book, so be careful if you havent been in it already.


message 3: by Mita (new)

Mita (mitab) Seeing the comments in the August Winners thread made me a bit apprehensive about reading the book, but I ended up liking it! I know the topic is supposed to be heavy but it's written very nicely and I couldn't put it down. Finished it in a 2-hour flight!


message 4: by Angela (new)

Angela | 1934 comments I also read this book very quickly, although I was not overly impressed with it. I did not hate it, but I did not love it either. I am going to rent the movie this weekend I think.


message 5: by GracieKat (new)

GracieKat | 864 comments i know what you mean. I wasn't all that impressed with it. I thought the love affair was a little creepy as well. I would think the same way if it was a teenage girl and thirty year old man.


message 6: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) This SHOULD have been a quick read for me. But I would set it down, and then find reasons to avoid picking it back up. Like doing dishes. Or scrubbing the toilet. Or painting the attic. So, what should have been read in a day or less took me several days, and then wasn't even worth it.

I didn't like any of the characters. Hanna was rigid and manipulative, but at least she had her own sense of honor, as ill-advised and poorly judged as it may be. But Michael was just pathetic, whiny, annoying and delusional. I LOATHED him. And considering that he's the one narrating, this didn't do a lot for the story in my opinion.

And speaking of his narration, I think it was probably the poorest I've ever read. If you're telling the story, at least TELL IT. There were so many gaps of "I can't remember this" or "I can't remember" that, it felt like one of those ad-lib games where we're supposed to fill in the word and help form the story ourselves. I'm supposed to be shown the characters through the narrator, not be made to guess who they are by someone who is not able to remember the person who shaped them into who they are, as pathetic as that person may be.

There was just so much about this story I didn't like. It felt like it was supposed to be deep and meaningful, but I didn't get it if it was. I took two things away from this book:
1) Illiterate people are so ashamed of their illiteracy that they will go to ridiculous and extreme lengths to avoid anyone acquiring any knowledge of it rather than just try to learn and better themselves. This may be true, but it seems to glorify the fact rather than inspire people.
2) Men who have unhealthy relationships with older women are completely unable to differentiate between the actual woman and their idealistic fantasy version of her, and will unfairly compare any new women to the ideal, thus sabotaging any chance of happiness they may ever have.


message 7: by LDB (new)

LDB | 45 comments I was on the fence about this book - didn't love it but didn't hate it. It was a quick read and almost seemed to treat the subject too lightly. But, it is one of those books that if you stop to think about it then it becomes much more weighty.

On the narration, every author has to choose the point of view the story is going to be told from. I thought having it told through this young man's point of view was an interesting choice. Here is someone who first met this older women when he was fourteen years old, if I am not mistaken. She was a fantasy for him and then later became his first sexual experience. The intimacy and distance involved in the relationship could of course mess up any sensitive, insecure pre-teen/teen, and thus the annoying Michael. I think Hanna is meant to remain an enigma but we see just enough of who she is to have some sympathy for her.

I did think the author could have done more with the psychological turmoil that Michael was going through. We get a hint of it and see that he essentially avoids her due to his internal turmoil. But, the author doesn't really bring us along on Michael's internal battle. Especially since it was told from Michael's point of view, I expected that we would have gone through more of the turmoil with him.

What were people's thoughts on the ending? I wasn't expecting what she did and am not quite sure how to interpret it. Thoughts on why she killed herself?


message 8: by Becky (last edited Aug 01, 2009 07:23PM) (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I get that Michael was messed up by the relationship, being that he was 15 and insecure and whatnot. But I expected him to grow. To mature. And he did not. And that frustrated me.

Yes, he was able to be amicable with his ex-wife after they split because he wasn't happy with her, since she was who she was (ie, not Hanna), which is commendable. And yes, he respected Hanna enough not to give away the secret she tried so hard to keep hidden, and let her retain her dignity. But I don't think that he did this out of any maturity. I think that it was just easier for him to be amicably separated from the wife, and not telling Hanna's secret and reading to her via tape while she was imprisoned was also the easier road for him, and I think allowed him to feel that she relied on him again. Because really, I think that he liked being able to provide the one service to her that she could not provide to herself, even if he didn't recognize it at the time.


message 9: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10062 comments Mod
Just a reminder when we post in these kinda threads:::

When we post in a spoiler thread, even tho we are posting in a safe, spoiler-supported area, our posts are showing up on our friends home pages....

In order to stop that from happening, and to remove the chance of unintentionally spoiling something for our buddies, you must click the box in the lower right hand corner of the screen when you are typing your post.

Do you see it? its the Add to my Update Feed box??? You need to make sure that box is UNCHECKED before clicking the post button.....

You could also go to your settings and set it permanently so you dont have to uncheck all the time.



message 10: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Whoops, sorry, Lori! (I assume I was the culprit!)


message 11: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10062 comments Mod
Not pointing any fingers... (cough coughbeckycough cough)....


message 12: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Haha... I know, I know! Consider me repentant!


message 13: by GracieKat (last edited Aug 02, 2009 04:20PM) (new)

GracieKat | 864 comments Becky wrote: "This SHOULD have been a quick read for me. But I would set it down, and then find reasons to avoid picking it back up. Like doing dishes. Or scrubbing the toilet. Or painting the attic. So, what sh..."

Perfect! That's what I was thinking. Apparently you're a little more adept into putting things into words than I am but you really nailed it.

As far as the ending, I saw it coming as soon as he allowed his disappointment in her age show. How immature is that? What did he expect? The same thirty-year-old sex-bomb? He unfairly compares all other women in his life to his idealized version of her and then rejects the real woman that she is because she doesn't match his dream version of her.


message 14: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Grace, that is EXACTLY what annoyed me about Michael. You explained it perfectly! :)


message 15: by Diane (last edited Aug 02, 2009 10:03PM) (new)

Diane  (dianedj) While I understand everyone's take on the affair and agree that is part of the story, to me the bigger point of the story is the execution of Jews and Hannah's hand in that....the whole genocide of the Jews that went on in Germany vs. the deep shame one must feel over being illeterate. Obviously Hannah was so ashamed of her illiteracy, she was willing to accept the crime that she was responsible of sending people to their death rather than expose to everyone that she was illerate.



message 16: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (rhiannonsgrace) | 17 comments I loved this book. Maybe not while I was reading it. But afterwards, once I'd had some time to let it sit and marinate. It keeps coming back to mind, and I think that since I still think about it. Its the sign of a truly good book.

I do not agree with Hannah's decision to accept the blame for locking the prisoners in the church. And I also don't agree with the fact that if she had just admitted once, so long before that that she couldn't read, that she wouldn't have been in that perdictament. Why wouldn't you rather admit that you can't read, than acce3pt a job with the SS?

I don't like Michael's character very much. But I do think his very human self-centeredness can be found in a lot of people. Of course he idolized her! She was his first love. Haven't we all in one form or another idolized our first loves? We remember those moments with a fragile, golden haze. There was no way that she could have lived up to those memories. Just as I'm sure she was different for him.

I guess what I liked was the human failibilty of the whole thing! It keeps me thinking. It makes me wonder, and I think it also gives a different view point, and maybe helps us to see in what direction the ripples we cause now....will end up. Wow! What a run on sentence!


message 17: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Diane wrote: "While I understand everyone's take on the affair and agree that is part of the story, to me the bigger point of the story is the execution of Jews and Hannah's hand in that....the whole genocide of..."

Diane, I understand what you're saying, but to me, the whole "trial" part of the book felt like an afterthought. I felt that the focus of the book was in Hanna and Michael's relationship and how it changed and they didn't. Her secret was one of the things, that I feel, caused her to be with him in the first place, because he was someone who could give her what she wanted with little to no strings attached. But that attachment went far deeper and with more consequences than either could have imagined... Unfortunately, I couldn't identify or even empathize with either person, so it was meaningless to me.

Granted, I read this a while ago, but what I remember from the trial wasn't the atrocities that Hanna was accused of, it was her PRIDE. I didn't feel like it was any particular shame in being illiterate, but rather that she would accept punishment rather than show ANY weakness.

If she had had just ONE vulnerability that she allowed to show through, a love of kittens perhaps, anything, then I think this story would have had a much different effect on me. But she was so frigid and cold and detached and unfeeling that I just couldn't care less about her.


message 18: by Katie (new)

Katie (katieisallbooked) | 109 comments I didn't enjoy this book at all. Not even just a little bit. :(

I felt like the deep subject matter was made almost trivial by the not-so-great writing. It was a short book, but seemed to drag on and on.


message 19: by Felina (last edited Aug 03, 2009 07:46AM) (new)

Felina I don't think the Nazi conflict is the main point of this book at all. And I agree with Becky, it was very much an after thought.

I think Michael's imaturity is to be expected. People who engage in extremely physical and emotional relationships before they are mentally ready for them are often stunted in emotional maturity. I think if Michael didn't have issues with woman after his relationship with Hanna, then the story would have been unbelievable. And take into account that his being able to have a sexual relationship at the age of 15 with an able bodied and experienced woman would have given him unusual and undefined ideas of what a relationship should be which I think explained why he put Hanna on a pedestal and why her aging suprised him. She basically isn't a real person to him, and you get a feeling for that in the first section of the book when he really struggles with wanting to tell somebody about the affair. He doesn't know if he should because he is conflicted about whether or not the relationship is wrong. He is conflicted because he is trying to delude himself into thinking it isn't wrong but his silence basically proves that he knows its wrong. So really, when it comes down to it, since nobody knows about their relationship he has the ability to treat it like it never really happened...like a fantasy. Besides Hanna never let him know anything about her. He had no idea of who she was outside their routine encounters. He was never let into her life therefore he kind of was never a part of her life.

And clearly whatever kind of bizarre relationship they had wasn't healthy or normal. They were not engaged in eachothers lives in the least which also played a part in his inability to have a normal relationship with a woman...infact I bet a normal relationship (ie. with his wife) would have been a little boring for him.

And realistically I think a 90% physical relationship for a man would be a fantasy.



message 20: by Felina (new)

Felina I also don't think it was an 'easier road' for Michael not to tell the judge about Hanna being illiterate. In fact, him having told the judge and lessening her sentence would have made him out to be a sort of hero (although probably not to Hanna). There were absolutely no negative repercussions socially and publically for him telling the truth. The only problem might have been that Hanna would have been upset about him outing her but he mentions several times during that trial that he no longer had any feeling for her so I don't think that would have ultimately mattered to him. I think it took alot of integrity to understand Hanna's wish and to not tread on her secret.


message 21: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I have to disagree, Felina. I think that if Michael had said that she was illiterate and had gotten her out of trouble, he might not have had any judicial repercussions, but I think that he would have had to publicly explain/testify how he knew her, and how he knew her so intimately when people she'd worked with, both in and out of the SS, had no idea of her being illiterate.

And, I disagree that he would be considered a hero. Again, it's been a while since I've read this, so I could be wrong, but I seem to recall a very negative vibe surrounding the accused women - not only because of what they were accused of, but because of what they were: Women voluntarily working for the SS. Even within Germany, there were many that did not agree with what was going on.

Hanna's release would have sent a message to the world that being illiterate makes it OK to do something wrong, even if you are NOT the ring-leader or person ordering the action. And that is something that there would have been societal repercussions for. I don't think that Michael was brave enough to risk it, honestly, although I think he liked to think he was.

I think that this, in addition to his knowing that she would then be disgusted with him for outing her, is what prevented him from saying anything and why I said that he took the "easier road". I didn't feel it was a matter of integrity at all.


message 22: by Diane (last edited Aug 03, 2009 11:21AM) (new)

Diane  (dianedj) I love all the different ideas and bantering back and forth about this story. Such a lively discussion! I am surprised that so many are focusing on the relationship between Michael and Hannah. And again, I wonder if I am NOT just because I know where the story goes. Because of course for a 15 year old boy to have his first taste at "love" with a 36 year old woman certainly is a big thing :) I just read the part where Michael has all this self confidence now because of the affair with Hanna.

I am only about a quarter way through the book and I am asking myself "Would I like the book if I hadn't seen the movie?" I expected to love the book....but I am finding it a little bit dull to read.

Is everyone in the thread going to watch the movie as well?



message 23: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I am still undecided as to whether I will watch the movie. I read and disliked the book first, and while I'm about 99% positive that the movie has to be better than the book, I just keep thinking that there must be a better way to spend two hours of my life than reliving something I didn't like the first time around...

Although, here I am... taking time to discuss it anyway!


message 24: by Diane (new)

Diane  (dianedj) Becky, I know you really disliked the book, that was why I specifically wanted to post here that I am finding it a bit slow : )




message 25: by Felina (new)

Felina Alright Becky...touche. I hadn't thought about how he would have had to admit to their relationship if he were to have spoken up about the illiteracy. It does change my opinion. Although I do still think it was considerate of him to respect the fact that she was willing to go to jail instead of have her secret exposed. I don't think I could allow someone to go to prison for life if I could stop it, even if I would somehow be implicated or embarrased.

I think the only reason tensions were high against her in the court room was because all the other defendants were starting to understand that she was digging herself into a hole (because she was unprepared for trial because of the illiteracy) so they figured she could be the scape goat.

Do you think if Michael had told the Judge that she was illiterate and therefore unprepared for trial, that it would have made a difference? or do you think they just wanted someone to pin it on and it didn't really matter who took the fall as long as someone took the fall? I got that impression from the judge and the courtroom during that part of the book. It felt like there was a huge social uprising against the whole Nazi movement, especially with the young people. Did anybody else get that impression?



message 26: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (rhiannonsgrace) | 17 comments Felina, I understand what you're saying. I think even if Michael had told the judge about Hannah's being illiterate, I don't think it would have changed much. Maybe for her. I don't think her prison sentence would have been so long, but she still would have been sent to prison. And I think it might have been worse for her in regards to the other women who were on trial with her. They would have made things more unbearable and harder for her then they already were.

I have seen the movie version of this book, and I have to say taht I much prefer the book.


message 27: by Felina (new)

Felina Why do you guys think Hanna 'gave up' two years before her release? I mean the warden said she stopped bathing and gained weight. And ideas as to why? The book didn't really suggest there was any one event.


message 28: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Felina, I do definitely agree with you that it was considerate to not say anything, but I don't think that's why he did it. But regardless of what his reasons or justifications are, his not speaking up allowed Hanna to keep her dignity and to control her own life in the only way left to her, small as that may be.

In regard to why she "gave up" and killed herself, I tend to think that she wanted to end things on her own terms and not have to struggle to live within a society that would never accept her. She was now convicted of a heinous crime, and right or wrong, she would be judged on that by everyone she ever met afterwards. Perhaps only able to work in menial or degrading jobs, or not able to find work at all. She may have to leave and try to start anew in a new place where nobody knows her, and I think that she was just too tired for that.

I don't know if this is why she did what she did, but I think it's what I would have thought in her position. Maybe to her, dying in prison had more dignity than slowly suffocating within the constraints of her "freedom".


message 29: by Felina (new)

Felina Ooo...Becky I like when you reply. You're very insightful.

I think you said you hadn't read it in a while, but Michael had already gotten her a job at a tailoring shop and found her a place to live.

My reference was more to what the Warden was telling Michael when he went to the prison after she had killed herself. The warden said that about two years previous to her suicide she had stopped bathing and had gained weight as if she didn't care anymore. I don't remember reading anything about there having been an incident that would have impacted her. I was just curious if anybody had any ideas to why she would have done that.


message 30: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) You're right Felina, I had forgotten that. Thanks for the reminder, although it kind of ruins my theory! LOL



message 31: by Diane (new)

Diane  (dianedj) I can see by reading everyone's threads that there is alot that comes out in the book that does not come out in the movie, for example Hannah stopping bathing and gaining weight. Also in the beginning of the book Hannah tells Michael that she has a son that is his age....not sure if that comes up any more in the book but that never came up in the movie.

Felina, your comment about "It felt like there was a huge social uprising against the whole Nazi movement, especially with the young people. Did anybody else get that impression?" Yes, absolutely. Michael's pals in law school had no sympathies whatsoever for the women on trial. I think that the law professor deep down knew that Michael had a relationship with Hannah.



message 32: by GracieKat (new)

GracieKat | 864 comments Felina wrote: "Why do you guys think Hanna 'gave up' two years before her release? I mean the warden said she stopped bathing and gained weight. And ideas as to why? The book didn't really suggest there was any o..."

I think it was because Michael effectively did not want to talk to her. Sure he sent her the books on tape but he says that there was never any personal messages on there for her and he never responded to any of the letters that she sent to him. I think that his only motivation in sending her the tapes was because he felt guilt and it was an easy way of assuaging it without putting any real effort forth.

I also think that was his justification for not telling the judge about her illiteracy. It was an easy out for him to say that "I was respecting her wishes" rather than owning up to the fact that they were intimately connected (which I don't believe that he would have had to do. He would really only have to say that he lived near her and she asked him to come read for her. Nothing more.)


message 33: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Grace wrote: "Felina wrote: "Why do you guys think Hanna 'gave up' two years before her release? I mean the warden said she stopped bathing and gained weight. And ideas as to why? The book didn't really suggest ..."

Makes sense...


message 34: by Felina (new)

Felina Diane wrote: "I can see by reading everyone's threads that there is alot that comes out in the book that does not come out in the movie, for example Hannah stopping bathing and gaining weight. Also in the beginn..."

I forgot about the son. That is a huge thing to bring up and then never touch on again.


message 35: by Jennie (new)

Jennie | 7 comments I noticed in the book how the warden mentioned that two years or so ago, Hanna gave up on herself...she had also mentioned that two years or so ago Hanna had asked for books about the Holocaust and the camps and people's experiences there. I kind of saw it that she saw herself like the man in the truck did, she was just doing her duty. She had removed herself personally from the whole situation and went through the routine and did what was asked of her without much feeling. Which is kind of the way that she lived her whole life. It seemed to me that when she finally was able to read the accounts and stories of the people who had lived through the Holocaust, she really took it in. Or at least, was able to understand what she had really done better.


message 36: by Felina (new)

Felina Jennie & Grace...I agree with both of you. You never become more self aware as when you see yourself through someone else’s eyes.


message 37: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) Felina wrote: "Jennie & Grace...I agree with both of you. You never become more self aware as when you see yourself through someone else’s eyes."

Very true. I think that theory makes the most sense.


message 38: by Joanie (new)

Joanie | 714 comments I just finished this this morning-still not quite sure how I feel about it. I need to read everyone's posts here and let things settle a bit. I'm looking forward to watching the movie this weekend.


message 39: by Diane (last edited Aug 07, 2009 12:15PM) (new)

Diane  (dianedj) Joanie wrote: "I just finished this this morning-still not quite sure how I feel about it. I need to read everyone's posts here and let things settle a bit. I'm looking forward to watching the movie this weekend."

Joanie, I watched the movie first, and there are definitely things that are focused on more in the book than in the movie, and vice versa. Look forward to your posting on the movie.


message 40: by Stacey (new)

Stacey (schaubchick) | 138 comments Very quick read - finished in less than 12 hrs. I did not enjoy this book at all. So much so that I doubt that I'll watch the movie. I didn't like the characters, I wasn't invested in any of them or their stories and didn't look forward to finding out what happened. I really don't have anything insightful to add to this discussion, sorry. Oh well. Off to start another book...


message 41: by Diane (new)

Diane  (dianedj) Stacey wrote: "Very quick read - finished in less than 12 hrs. I did not enjoy this book at all. So much so that I doubt that I'll watch the movie. I didn't like the characters, I wasn't invested in any of the..."

That's one of the the great thing about books - there's always another waiting in the wings! At least you didn't spend too much time on it!


Yvette (hooked on the nook) (yjacobs99) I just finished this book and I would have to agree with Stacey, I did not enjoy it at all, regardless of the fact it was a quick read. I am having a hard time coming to grips why this author would either imagine such a story or even possess the passion to write and publish it for that matter. The main narrative character needs some serious psycho analysis to help him get a grip on his deeply embedded issues. His world seems so bleak and dismal that it made me a depressed and I a pretty happy go lucky person. YIKES! Well, let's hope the next book makes up for this one. I can honestly say, I will not see this movie either..to disturbing.


Yvette (hooked on the nook) (yjacobs99) Jennie wrote: "I noticed in the book how the warden mentioned that two years or so ago, Hanna gave up on herself...she had also mentioned that two years or so ago Hanna had asked for books about the Holocaust and..."

Jennie, I enjoyed reading your post. I agree, Hanna's realization and full understanding of the events are what I think finally did her in to the point she could no longer cope with life that would require her to carry such a weight in her mind and heart.


message 44: by Victoria (new)

Victoria | 34 comments Really interesting discussion. I quite enjoyed the book though the writing style felt like the narrator was still fifteen. Has anyone read his other books?


message 45: by Diane (new)

Diane  (dianedj) Yvette wrote: "I just finished this book and I would have to agree with Stacey, I did not enjoy it at all, regardless of the fact it was a quick read. I am having a hard time coming to grips why this author would..."

I'm not sure I agree that the author imagined anything, as the Holocaust is very real. So to me, it's a novel, based on historical fact. I did not find this to be any more disturbing than any other book I've read on the Holocaust.


message 46: by Becky (new)

Becky (beckyofthe19and9) I wonder if Yvette was referring to the relationship being disturbing as something imagined rather than the Holocaust parts. I read it that way, at least. I took "his" world being bleak and dismal as Michael's world, not the author's.


message 47: by Diane (new)

Diane  (dianedj) Becky wrote: "I wonder if Yvette was referring to the relationship being disturbing as something imagined rather than the Holocaust parts. I read it that way, at least. I took "his" world being bleak and dismal..."

Maybe you're right - Yvette can you clarify? Sometimes I misread things over email or online, sorry if I misinterpreted.

I am still very surprised at some scenes in the book (that to me were important) that are not in the movie. I've just finished the part where Michael "meets" with his dad to discuss the trial (Not in the movie). Imagine needing to make an appointment to see your father?


JG (Introverted Reader) Diane wrote: "Also in the beginning of the book Hannah tells Michael that she has a son that is his age....not sure if that comes up any more in the book but that never came up in the movie. "

I thought that at first too, but I eventually decided that that part was just her playing around with Michael's name and seeing if she liked it. I don't think she really had a son. Anyone else have a thought on that?


JG (Introverted Reader) I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments. I don't think I hated it quite as much as Becky :-) but I really disliked it. I thought the central conflict was supposed to be about Understanding vs Condemnation and how it's practically impossible to feel both at the same time. But I disliked Michael so much that I didn't care. Yeah, Hanna wasn't great either, but she quickly becomes a victim (granted, mostly of her own pride) and Michael never helped her in anyway. He just seemed to make things worse. I felt too removed from the story to feel any kind of internal conflict about "What would I do in either of their shoes?" I felt like it could have been a great book, but the style and the characters really just turned me off.


message 50: by Felina (new)

Felina I agree with JG about the theme of this book being Understanding vs Condemation. Excellent insight.

I don't really understand why everybody hates Michael so much. Granted he's not the most likeable guy but I thought his actions/attitude about most of the events were very realistic. I thought the author was very real about peoples actions in this book. I also appreciated that this book didn't have a happy ending. I think thats the most realistic part of the book because there were so few stories at that time that had happy endings. This book is supposed to be dark and difficult to read.


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