Review: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

For mature audiences only and for those that can handle tough issues and graphic portrayals.

The copy of this book that I found contains notes and a lot of highlights.  I’m wondering if someone, or two, used this for a class or book group, or both.  Finding scribbles and highlights is fascinating because it shows what other people reading the same thing latched onto during the reading.

In today’s day and age, Michael’s relationship with Hannah would be treated as a major crime, the setting for a show like Law and Order’s Special Victim’s Unit.  Olivia Benson would be on the case of a woman having an affair with a teenager half of her age.

This book could only take place in the setting that it does.  Everyone has secrets to hide yet justice is being handed out on a continual basis.

I just wonder for a country like Germany that has forced and compulsory state sanctioned education, just like the United States and a few other countries, how someone like Hannah would have fallen through the cracks and would have never learned to read or write, even functional literacy.  That is the major gap that is left by having the story from only Michael’s point-of-view.  He says that Hannah would never answer his questions.

Having worked with English Learners and with clients who can read barely beyond a second or third grade level as adults, Hannah’s complete lack of anything really makes me wonder.  Did the system just pass her along, so to speak, as happens today even though not many people are willing to discuss the subject.  Did she come from a poor family that the system missed somewhere?  Who knows?  It is left to the reader’s imagination.

Hannah preyed on Michael and the feeling seemed to go the other way as well.  No one is a good guy in this story.  Heartbreaking in some ways, yes, but these are two imperfect human beings.

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