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The Reader | [Bernhard Schlink]

The Reader

When he falls ill on his way home from school, 15-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover--then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.
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Publisher's Summary

Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.

When he falls ill on his way home from school, 15-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover--then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.

©2008 Bernhard Schlink; (P)2008 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"A formally beautiful, disturbing and finally morally devastating novel." (Los Angeles Times)
"Moving, suggestive and ultimately hopeful. . . . [The Reader] leaps national boundaries and speaks straight to the heart." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Arresting, philosophically elegant, morally complex. . . . Mr. Schlink tells his story with marvelous directness and simplicity." (The New York Times)
"Haunting. . . . What Schlink does best, what makes this novel most memorable, are the small moments of highly charged eroticism." (Francine Prose, Elle)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (626 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
4.2 (237 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.3 (233 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Charles TULSA, OK, United States 01-25-15
    Charles TULSA, OK, United States 01-25-15

    Criminal defense attorney. Love audible and I'm kind of obsessed with writing reviews. No plot spoilers please. Seriously.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    940
    ratings
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    41
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    "Exceptional"

    I have not seen the film adaptation, so I went into this book without any preconceptions. I think that is a good thing after completing this short, but extremely powerful, listen. I'm going to address this review without discussing more than is present in the Audible synopsis above.

    The Reader is, essentially, a parable for the generations following the Holocaust. Michael represents the generation immediately following the perpetrators, as represented by Hanna. I won't go any farther into the plot, though I am not sure how important refusing to present 'spoilers' actually would be in this instance.

    This parable addresses one of the most horrifying questions of the 20th century; how could the perpetrators of the Holocaust (or arguably any genocide) do what they did? And, how do the generations that follow understand or, if possible, come to terms with their actions?

    It also explores the long term damage those who perpetrated or allowed the atrocity did to those who came after the war. Hanna harmed Michael, whether she intended to or not. The generation before harmed the generations that followed.

    I'm not sure those questions will be answered for many of the listeners to this book. At least not in a way that is satisfying; I know for me, I was satisfied. That is not to say that it is an easy read; I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books that follows me for quite a while.

    Schlink is blunt and sparse in his writing. Every word serves a specific purpose and economy of usage is employed extensively. Many authors would have made this into a 10+ hour book; here we have a fully functional story in just 4 hours. I didn't feel as if anything was rushed or too many jumps were made; in fact, I think expanding the story would have detracted considerably from the issues at hand. You can tell a lawyer wrote it though.

    Highest marks.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 12-09-08
    Ella toronto,, Ontario, Canada 12-09-08 Member Since 2013

    Knowledge is knowing the way. Wisdom is looking for an alternative, more interesting road to get there. Audiobooks are that road.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1126
    ratings
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    5
    Overall
    "Dysfunctional"

    When I was finished this book I felt empty. I couldn't decide if I liked it or not, however, it continues to pop into my thoughts and haunt me, and that is a sure sign that the book affected me.
    Being a second generation holocaust survivor from both of my parents, I was raised with the holocaust in my veins, always learning and feeling the emotion of what my parents, their families and friends went through, one horror story after the other. I never took the time to understand what the second generation German people went through, a completely different perspective.
    This dysfunctional "kid" (as he is referred to in the book), who even as an adult could not come to terms with his relationship with Hannah, was full of unresolved feelings and emotion too. Hannah herself could not admit and own up to what she had done. Also dysfunctional. A very dramatic book, which more than once, sent chills through me.
    I am not sure if I would recommend this book to everyone. It is different. I can't quite put my finger on why. The narrator was fine, nothing special, but not a hindrance either.
    What I will say is for a 4 hour book it certainly packs a punch. Will definitely see the movie.

    25 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Mount Vernon, NY, United States 02-26-09
    Diane Mount Vernon, NY, United States 02-26-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    77
    ratings
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    28
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    5
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    Overall
    "The Reader, whew"

    I had no idea that this book was already in theaters. I can't imagine how it will be on the big screen, but as for the book, the writer and the reader, all I can say is that I could not put the book down. How courageous this book is! I cannot say that it answers the questions posed, but I very rarely have heard or read the questions asked. I read a lot, I totally recommend this book. Warning, it is heavy.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Jefferson Hills, PA, USA 02-18-09
    Chris Jefferson Hills, PA, USA 02-18-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    15
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    5
    3
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    "The listener"

    Though I purchased the book at the same time the movie was in theaters, I profoundly enjoyed listening to it. I was surprised by the ending and felt a sense of loss for one of the main characters. I would recommnend this book to anyone.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Marietta, GA, United States 11-20-08
    Barbara Marietta, GA, United States 11-20-08 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    5
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    Overall
    "Not for everyone"

    The Yahoo group for Audible users highly praised this book, and since it was short and inexpensive, I bought it and listened to it right away. I was not as impressed as some. It's a tenderly told coming-of-age story about some very damaged individuals in Germany, in the decades following WW2. Campbell Scott reads beautifully, without resorting to any dialects, which is refreshing, and the narrative is plaintive but fulfilling. In many ways an autopsy of a society, the novel excuses no one and gives a rare glimpse into the souls of a hapless persons in circumstances beyond their control and understanding.

    23 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    River Mama 02-16-09
    River Mama 02-16-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
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    6
    6
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    Overall
    "Incredible."

    My audio library is 900 books. This is the first time I have felt so compelled to comment that I can't not do so. The author's detailed examination of one human's obligations to another is cast upon backgrounds large and small, each easily identifiable thanks to meticulous thought and writing. This is also the first book I have listened to a second time and will do so again and again. It is not for everyone, only those who are up for thinking and whose natural curiosity is drawn toward human dynamics. Thank you, Berhnard Schlink, for taking the time and making the effort to develop your talent for our benefit.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Crusader Palm Springs, CA, United States 07-04-09
    Crusader Palm Springs, CA, United States 07-04-09 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Intriguing and controversial"

    I really enjoyed the story and the characters came to life because of the fine writing of Bernhard Schlink.

    A very realistic and emotional story, and just the perfect length. Excellent plot.

    Very anxious to listen to his other books.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tiffany Corona, CA, United States 06-01-09
    Tiffany Corona, CA, United States 06-01-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Left Me Cold"

    I wonder if something was lost in translation from the German in this book. I just couldn't get too involved with these characters. It was written coldly and left me bored most of the time. I have studied German history extensively and normally the real stories of the holocaust get me so upset that I wonder why I read this or watched that.

    This one left me thinking, well, so what? The seduction of a 15 year old boy affected his entire life. That's not unusual. The context of the German holocaust was the difference here.

    It was just so unemotionally written that I didn't relate to anyone and I was glad when it was over.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vicki williamstown, NJ, USA 12-28-08
    Vicki williamstown, NJ, USA 12-28-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ratings
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    "WONDERFUL"

    I was eager to listen/read this after seeing an interview with kate winslet. She spoke of the book with such high praise. I was intrigued by the characters and held in suspense until the very end.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MARCIA Lake Forest, CA, United States 05-06-09
    MARCIA Lake Forest, CA, United States 05-06-09 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    80
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    "WOW!"

    I listened to this book today, on a bright, sunny, southern California afternoon, on our patio overlooking the lake below our house, while knitting for twin grandbabies due soon. I was warmed by the sun, enchanted by the ducks and geese, filled with joy as I anticipated the birth of these two precious lives. Warmth, enchantment, joy. Such a contrast to the lives of the characters playing in my ears. All I can say is WOW! I think this is an afternoon and a book that I will long remember.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 33 results PREVIOUS124NEXT
Sort by:
  • Chrissie62
    1/2/09
    Overall
    "The Reader"

    This is the best book I have listened to or read since The Book Thief. I listened to all 4 hours in one sitting. Absolutely briliant!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Peter
    Brighton, United Kingdom
    1/29/09
    Overall
    "Listening to The Reader"

    The character Hannah loves to be read to, and so listening to this sympathetic reading felt apt. I really like the book, just as I did the film. Wikipedia told me that Schlink is a professor for public law and the philosophy of law, and sometimes works as a judge. And his expertise informs this fascinating work about post war Germany and its moral dilemmas, which among other things is also is a story of doomed love. A proper grown up read. Great stuff.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Clatter Ho
    Milton Keynes, UK
    1/21/09
    Overall
    "Captivating and moving"

    I enjoyed this book tremendously; it was both captivating and moving. A story which gripped me from the start and kept me wanting to listen to more; I ended up finishing it a lot more quickly than I would normally. The emotions surrounding the love story, well they were all there: sadness, loneliness, compassion, sympathy, happiness, to name just a few. The narration was wonderful too and even though I finished it a few days ago the story has stayed with me. This is a fantastic book that I would recommend to anyone.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Liam
    BradfordUnited Kingdom
    8/31/09
    Overall
    "Short, captivating, moving"

    A great observation of a character caught within believable yet tragic circumstances, not an easy listen but moving, great human quality to the writing and subjects. Recommended highly but not an easy listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nick
    Stevenage, United Kingdom
    3/25/09
    Overall
    "Superb - a must read"

    A book I will read and re-read. It has something to offer of increased depth and insight every time you return to even a few pages. It both entertains as a story at the most superficial level whilst offering the reader who wants it, a profound analysis of the inter-generational problems faced by the Germans of the Second World War and their offspring. At the same time it confronts the evil capacity of every human soul - that possibility that even we, normally pleasant, upright people might get drawn into monstrous acts.

    What I really liked was that the book never trifles nor offers simplistic solutions to this enigma. A must read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Kieran
    wirral, merseyside, United Kingdom
    3/11/09
    Overall
    "I lived every up and down!"

    I loved this book, I haven't watched the movie and I don't think I want to. The emotions were captured perfectly, I related to every anxious moment, fantastic book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Liz Baker
    2/8/09
    Overall
    "Open Your Mind"

    There may be books that will make you a better person, they may be books that will help you change your life.

    But every now and then you should read or listen to a book that challenges your preconcieved ideas about what is wrong and right and makes you think.

    Every thing about the reader should make you hate the two main characters - is Hannah a preditor taking advantage of a boy not yet a man? Is Michael morally corrupt because he does nothing to help Hannah when he realises that he could save her from jail?

    Or are these two people just human beings with the same faults and failabilities that we all have?

    The final twist caused me to audibly gasp.

    This is not a book to listen too when you want something light and breezey - this is a book to open your mind.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sue
    Shroton, Dorset, United Kingdom
    2/2/09
    Overall
    "The Reader"

    I really enjoyed this and just didn't want it to end. Excellent reading and Brilliant story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Eddie
    1/31/09
    Overall
    "Remembering"

    A riviting book that I listned to in one sitting. It is difficult not to feel sorry for Hannah, an ex concentration camp guard but we should not lose track of the of the horrors that were committed in those camps especially by the female guards, three of whom were executed after the war for their crimes. This book takes you through the whole spectrum of emotion from tenderness and love to the horror of what she did. All through the eyes of a young German boy whose life was changed for ever after coming into first contact with her. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with even the smallest interest in what is the German collective guilt after the Second World War.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-9 of 9 results

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