The Reader - Bernhard Schlink
The Reader was chosen as the Bloggers' Book Club book for February. So here's my review:
I was very disappointed with this book, after all it had such great reviews and recommendations.
I enjoyed the first three chapters, the prose was simple but it created very vivid pictures as Michael Berg relates the story of his illness and first meetings with Hanna. It was downhill all the way after that!
The style of the book changes in second part where it becomes a much more philosophical read, maybe reflecting Michael's move from childhood to an adult in the second part. We see Hanna being tried for war crimes, Michael observing the trial and eventually the move towards Hanna's release. The theme of collective guilt over the Holocaust and how the different generations in Germany deal with it is covered by Michael.
For me the main reason I didn't like the book was, I couldn’t feel any empathy whatsoever with either of the two main characters. From what we learn about them, I felt they were cold, unemotional, selfish and detached. Michael, for example hardly mentions his mother, his wife and his daughter, the other women in his life.
The novel raises questions but I never felt there were any answers. Well to be honest, how can there be any answers to such a horrendous theme as the Holocaust, national and individual guilt. However there were other questions which remained unanswered and these were in the author’s power to resolve, but for some reason he didn’t. Hanna’s so called secret wasn’t difficult to guess right from their early meetings. However for Hanna’s final action, no answer was given or even hinted at.
The book evoked no real emotion from me other than frustration. It really should have done, given the fact that it was dealing with horrific war crimes. No tears, no sadness, no joy, no smiles. I kept waiting for answers which never materialised. I also felt I didn’t learn anything from this book which I feel is such a waste.