Monday, March 9, 2009
Book Review ... The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink is haunting. The writing is direct, but it is as if each sentence is a brush-stroke in a painting and you can't take your eyes off the canvas until the image is revealed. We first meet Michael Berg at 15,who becomes sick and vomits on the sidewalk. An older woman sees what happens, takes him by the arm and brings him into the nearby courtyard where there is a faucet and cleans him up. Then fills two buckets with water and proceeds to instruct him to take one as she takes the other and they clean the sidewalk. Michael is so distraught at what has happened he begins to cry, and the woman takes him into her arms to comfort him and then walks him home. We find out then that Michael has hepatitis and is so sick he becomes bedridden. He tells his mother about the woman that helped him and it was then decided that as soon as he was better he would go and properly thank her. And so he does... That older woman is Hanna and their innocent beginnings turn into a love affair. But this is Germany after the war, after the horrors of the Holocaust and this coming of age story turns into much more... The story is told by Michael in three parts. The first part is the love affair between Michael and Hanna. The second & third parts of the story are the ones that make you wonder how love, shame, redemption and dignity all play a part in each of our lives. Do we have an obligation to save someone even though they don't want to be saved? Can you love someone no matter what? Do we perceive things the way we want to or think we should? I am still thinking about Hanna. It's a book that doesn't leave you right away. It is a relatively short read- 218 pages- and it is well worth the time! It would make an excellent book club read/discussion as well! Read this book! You won't be sorry.