The Reader by Bernhard Schlink: Book Review

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Cover of The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

2 Stars

When Michael Berg is 15, he has an affair with Hanna Schmitz, who is over twice his age. The affair does eventually come to an end, but their lives are intertwined afterwards.

This book should have been passionate, challenging, and emotionally wrenching. But I just felt too distanced from everything. I’m trying to decide if this is because it’s told from Michael’s point of view and he’s a detached kind of guy, but mostly I don’t care. I see what it could have been versus what it is and I’m frustrated.

I think the big conflict at the heart of the novel was supposed to be condemnation versus understanding and how hard it is, or even impossible, to feel both at the same time. I think I was supposed to question what I would have done in each character’s place, but I was too aggravated with Michael to have room for introspection. I was too busy wondering if the jackass was ever going to grow some balls and help Hanna out. (Sorry, Mama. But it’s true.) I wanted to smack him. He let her down in so many ways and somehow always found a way to make it her fault. Hanna wasn’t perfect either. In fact, they destroyed each other in round about ways, when they really could have been each other’s salvation. That may have been part of the point of the book also, but that’s not my kind of thing. I’m a die hard fan of the happy ending.

Readers not requiring too much of an emotional attachment to their books will like this one. I think if I were that kind of reader I would definitely have enjoyed it more and been willing to think more about the conflicts it contains. But I’m not and so I’m left disliking it.

Reviewed August 14, 2009

Read an excerpt.

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Friday Flashback Reviews, a feature at The Introverted Reader

Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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1 Comment

  1. I actually put this one down about half way through because I just wasn't into the story. I think part of it for me was the age difference. For some reason it got to me and because I wasn't connecting with the characters I just didn't care to finish the book.

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