Saturday, March 7, 2009

Must Read: The Reader

I just finished reading "The Reader" by Bernhard Schlink. The book had caught my eye before and when it was made into a movie, that pushed me to purchase the book so I could read it before seeing the movie. The book is wonderful. It so well written, which is impressive since it was originally written in German. Sometimes words just don't translate as well when going from one language to another, but the translator definitely got it right with this book. So props to her!!

When the story opens, we meet 15 year old Michael Berg - he falls ill on his way home from school and is assisted by Hanna, a woman twice his age. When Michael's health improves, he returns to Hanna's house to thank her. And an affair begins. A very steamy affair. Which is sort of hard to read about! It sort of brought back memories of the details of the Mary Kay Letourneau affair - remember her? She was his teacher and became pregnant with his child when she was 34 and he was 13?

Anyway, back to the book. Michael and Hanna have an affair for quite awhile until it ends very suddenly - Hanna leaves town with no explanation. Michael moves on with his life and assumes he will never meet her again.

The book then flashes forward. Michael is now in law school and is taking a course that observes a post-WWII trial. It turns out that Hanna had worked for the SS and is now on trial for a war crime. While observing the trial, Michale is puzzled by the fact that Hanna is not defending herself, and realizes she is harboring a secret that she considers more shameful than murder.

I can't say much else as I don't want to ruin the book for any potential readers. I can't wait to see the movie - although I will be prepared to be disappointed as the movie is never as good as the book, of course! This movie has 2 of my favorite actors, though - Kate Winslet & Ralph Fiennes - so I am hoping that I won't be too disappointed.

Now that I know I will be reviewing most of the books I read (btw, I read more books than I review - I only do blog posts on the ones I really have an opinion on!), I find that I read these books differently. Now I bend down the ear of pages with passages that I want to revisit when blogging about them*. There are alot of really great passages about the shifting of a relationship. Here is one that made me think about the dissolution of past relationships:

"When an airplane's engines fail, it is not the end of the flight. Airplanes don't fall out of the sky like stones. They glide on, the enormous multi-engined passenger jets, for thirty, forty-five minutes, only to smash themselves up when they attempt a landing. The passengers don't notice a thing. Flying feels the same whether the engines are working or not. It's quieter, but only slightly: the wind drowns out the engines as it buffets the tail and wings. At some point, the earth or sea look dangerously close through the window. But perhaps the movie is on, and the stewards and air hostesses have closed the shades. Maybe the very quietness of the flight is appealing to the passengers."

If you read it, let me know what you think.

* Random note: Bending down the pages of books makes me feel terribly guilty... and it makes me think of my Grandma McDougall. She was also a lover of books. I remember getting the set of Little House on the Prairie books from her as a Christmas or Birthday gift. One week we went up to visit her & I wanted to show her how far I'd gotten in one of the books - she saw that I had folded down the ear of a page as a place marker & was APPALLED! She basically told me I was abusing the poor book and that I needed to invest in some bookmarks. I have never bent the ear of a page of a book since... until I started blogging about books. I still feel guilty when I do it, but it's the easiest way to keep track of passages I want to revisit. I know I should invest in some of those post-it tabs... But maybe, someday I will pass this book onto someone, and they'll be curious to see what passages I was most moved by...


Jess said...

I haven't read this yet, but I'd like to! I'm looking for good books to read - so I love your reviews!

I know what you mean about folding down pages. I avoid it whenever I can. It makes me cringe when someone does it to my books. I'm funny that way!

Amber said...

I've been looking for a new book to read! I'll have to pick this one up, thanks for the recommendation!

Shoshanah said...

I used to fold down pages all the time when I was younger, but then I started to feel a bit like I was ruining my books. Silly I know.

I haven't read this book or seen the movie. But I really really want to. Hopefully, this weekend it works out!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

Sticky notes!!

crystal said...

I have been having a slightly painful ambiguity reaction to this book for a while. Everytime I see it, I think that it looks good and I should read it. But, I have such an aversion to the romanticizing of statuatory rape (relationship or not, that is what it is) that I can't get myself to read it! But, all I hear is that the writing is so good and that it is a good book. Damn!
I used to be the same way about damaging books...until I moved to Seattle and started shopping in all the used book stores here. I love all the personality that the used books have. I love reading a book and coming across it's past reader's personal comments or underlined emphasis. Now I allow my own personality into my books, its a much fuller experience!! Just thought I'd share :)