The Reader – Bernhard Schlink

After a conversation with my A-level German teacher about immersing myself in the language's culture, I was recommended to read ‘Der Vorleser’ or ‘The Reader’ in English.

Having now completed the book (within 2 hours may I add), I wanted to provide a book review in order to encourage as many people as possible to read the historic book which left me shocked, saddened, and deeply conflicted.

The story is set post-World War Two and follows the story of a young boy named Michael who meets a woman twice his age, Hanna, who tends to him while he is ill. Their relationship continues into an affair before Hanna suddenly moves away. A few years later, Michael is studying to become a lawyer and becomes wrapped up in a court case involving Hanna where she is on trial for heinous crimes.

Without spoiling the incredible, yet shocking plot, the story follows themes of passion, guilt, innocence, and love whilst also using the history of the War Trials that followed the actions of many in Concentration Camps.

A key idea my teacher and I discussed was that of ‘Second generational guilt’ in Germany, as Michael seeks protection from Hanna, yet she draws her head up high and denies nothing, similar to those still living in Germany post-1945, just as the news of the concentration camps came out.

The end of the book is thought-provoking and extremely conflicting, but it is absolutely worth the read! It is impossible to put down as the storyline is gripping and intense.