I just finished The Reader. You know, it’s this “great novel” that was the first German-novel to make it (at least for a long time) to the New York Times Bestseller list and stand as one of the original Oprah’s book club book (when she actually read her books), oh and inspire the 2008 film production for which Kate Winslet won an Oscar. …But I read it and I don’t understand what all the commotion is about!
Summary: A 36-year-old woman – who might be called the novel’s heroine, or hellcat, seduces a 15-year-old. They have a scandalous affair that’s uncomfortable to read about, mostly because she (Hanna) treats him (Michael) like shit. Then the next two chapters are all about the failings of Michael’s life because he cannot understand that Hanna (who manipulated him at such a young age) was actually not good for him.
Michael (also the narrator) has some really interesting ways of looking at things, but one cannot help but wonder if this kid has an original thought, seeing as most of them are somehow influenced by Hanna. You see, years after their affair, Hanna is placed on trial for a crime she committed as an SS Nazi officer during WWII. Michael, going to school for law, is an observer at the trial and sees her for the first time (after she deserts him for seven years). Though their speaking to one another is very limited (if at all), once Hanna is sentenced to prison, Michael reads to her (a tradition they engaged in during their affair) by sending books on tape to her jail cell.
The aspect of the story where the author redeems himself for 45 seconds, is how the subject of WWII is approached – how the post WWII generations are dealing with the tragedy created by the Nazis and the attitude towards nationalism. It would be a great read for a History class studying WWII – of course, with permission from parents (and a brave teacher preparing to see his/her school name under the challenged book list on the ALA website).
Read it if you REALLY need to. There is not enough time in this world, so don’t waste it by reading a disappointing book. If you really are curious as to the details of the juicy affair, just RedBox the film.
Gary gives it 1.5 paws.