The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader tells a story about Michael Berg, who is helped by Hanna Schmitz when he falls ill on his way home from school. That time he’s 15 and she’s 36. In time they become lovers.

The book is divided into 3 parts. First, the time Michael and Hanna spend together before Hanna goes missing. Second, many years ahead, when Michael sees Hanna again, in court on trial. Third, the time after the trial. The relationship between the two entangles with the Holocaust, covers more than half of the book. (Come to think again, is there any literature with German setting that is not about the Holocaust?)

I found the translation a bit awkward at times. Luckily the book is pretty short and straightforward. Any longer would be too long. All in all, I like the book. It’s different, it’s sad, and it has profound characters, though I thought the ending was a bit of a cop-out and felt myself wanting more.

Before I read the book, I thought the Reader would be about someone who liked to read. Apparently it’s about someone who reads aloud. I’m wondering what’s the meaning of that bunch of flowers on top of a book as the cover. I keep seeing it as shadow puppet from a distance.

I kept thinking that Nicole Kidman would be great as Hanna if there was ever a movie on it. Did a quick search and apparently there will be at the end of this year! And from Wiki, I found out that indeed Nicole Kidman was supposed to play Hanna, but she dropped out, and Kate Winslet replaced her. Kate Winslet would be great too. Actually, she’s closer physically to the Hanna I had in mind when I read the book.

Another random fact, Michael Berg (I’m guessing the old one) is played by Ralph Fiennes, who played Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies. I’m reading Harry Potter books right now. What a weird connection.

Pages: 218
Rating: 4 out of 5 [Very Good]

First line
When I was fifteen, I got hepatitis.

Last line
It was the first and only time I stood there.


“Sometimes the memory of happiness cannot stay true because it ended unhappily.” ~ p37

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9 thoughts on “The Reader by Bernhard Schlink”

  1. Oh, I didn’t know it’s being adapted to screen. It should be like an arthouse movie, if I may say so. I think the collection of short stories by the same author, “Flights of Love” is not bad too. Like you like, his characters are always complex.

    Allow me to say again, you are indeed a fast reader:)

  2. I love it when things intersect like your two movies there. I bet you see Ralph Fiennes mentioned again several more times in the next few weeks.

  3. My recommendation, a must-read: Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. The movie-adaption also starring Ralph Fiennes! heehee…sorry, I can’t help it:P

  4. I can’t believe this. I was thinking about starting Wuthering Heights, and therefore was lurking around some sites when I found out that Ralph Fiennes was starring as Heathcliff in 1992 Wuthering Heights movie!

  5. You know, I read this a long time ago. I don’t remember anything about it. Maybe early twenty-something was too young to appreciate it…? maybe it’s just one of those books I’d find utterly forgettable even today…

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