Bernhard Schlink: The Reader – review

Author: Bernhard Schlink
Publish Date: 1995
Genre: Realism
Audience: Adult fiction

I actually finished this book around a month ago but I have only now gotten round to writing about it! I decided to read ‘The Reader’ as it was part of my wider reading list for English Literature, and the theme of forbidden love is one that I typically enjoy.

However, this novel offered me so much more than I could have ever wanted. The story is set in war time Germany and features heavy content surrounding the Holocaust. Nazi Germany is a period of history which I find absolutely fascinating, and so this made the book a lot more engaging for me.

Another aspect I really enjoyed about ‘The Reader’ is its structure. The novel is set out in three parts, and each part is extremely distinct – part one follows Michael’s affair with an older woman named Hanna; part two follows a trial which convicts Nazi officers of their doings in the Holocaust; part three portrays Michael as an older man and his connections with his past lover Hanna. This structure made the book unique for me, but also added interest. In addition, each chapter is relatively short so the story is fast paced but still easy to follow.

The characters of Michael and Hanna are extremely real, helped by the superb writing of Bernhard Schlink. I felt empathy for both as the novel takes an unexpected turn, and moments in the third part are extremely touching for multiple reasons. The author also takes – to an extent – an intrusive role at times, which questions the morals of both forbidden love and the Holocaust, giving the reader a much more immersive and engaging role instead of the usual back-seat observer.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Reader’ for a multitude of reasons; the writing, the character development, and the plot were all truly superb. It provided an exceptionally captivating experience as I was forced to evaluate the rights and wrongs of a devastating incident, whilst following an intriguing love story between two very different people.

Next read: ‘Legally Blonde’ by Amanda Brown

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