Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Review: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
The Reader is not concerned with answering these questions as much as it is with pointing out the complexity of the situation made more complex by the protagonist’s teenage love affair with a strange women twice his age with a murky past.
In the first part, the protagonist, Michael, is sexually assaulted but goes back for more. Calling it a love affair is misleading. It’s infatuation to the extreme. The second book revolves around the woman’s trial for alleged war crimes. The “twist” is that she is illiterate and had this been publicly known would have exonerated her. Who would go to prison for life rather than admit they can’t read? Totally unbelievable for me but then again I’ve had the luxury of an education. The third part continues with Michael’s selfish introspection on the the woman’s importance to him and how her absence is why he never had a stable relationship...whine, whine, whine. Slightly more thoughts on the role of his generation towards their parents.’ Dull writing screwed this book over. If the prose had been beautiful in German it did not translate well.
What are we to take away from The Reader? Michael’s selfishness and moral misgivings prevent him from forgiving the woman enough to genuinely demonstrate his love for her. He makes it clear there will always be a barrier separating them - one he feels neither he nor anyone else can remove. Is this supposed to be symbolic of the divide between generations? Any thoughts?
Another thing that struck me is the lack of forgiveness in this novel. Blame and punishment are doled out. Regrets are voiced. But not much forgiveness. How can one who is wronged heal if he cannot forgive? How can one who has wronged another be changed if they never ask for forgiveness? Saying "I'm sorry" is easy. Saying, "Will you please forgive me" is hard. It puts oneself at the mercy of another. Does Hanna, the woman, ever really ask for forgiveness? Does she ever receive forgiveness?
Publisher: Vintage, 2008 Pages: 218
Rating: 2.5 Stars Source: IC Public Library