The Reader: A novel (Vintage International) (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

This book hurt my heart in the best way possible. At the very beginning, I was captured by the relationship between Hanna and Michael, but as I read further, I discovered that this book has more to do with Michael’s relationship with himself. What are his values, what does he deem moral and immoral, and can logic override emotion? This novel shows humans at their most complex, and most simple, simultaneously. Though I think there are some instances where Schlink could have gone more in-depth, those moments do not detract from the novel's overall greatness. It shows the world in grey, and while it broke my heart multiple times, and at points made me cringe, I find this book utterly compelling. This, alongside beautiful prose, makes it a book I would recommend wholeheartedly.

--Hannah Z, Bookseller

— From Staff Picks

Spring/Summer '09 Reading Group List

“This uncommonly affecting page-turner, set in postwar Germany, evokes equal depths of thought and feeling. Written in spare, keenly observed prose, it is a story of love, and of personal and historical responsibility, and the novel's wrenching moral questions still have me in their grip.”
— John Willson, Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge Island, WA


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, fifteen-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.

About the Author

Bernhard Schlink was born in Germany in 1944. A professor of law at the University of Berlin and a practicing judge, he is also the author of several prize-winning crime novels. He lives in Bonn and Berlin.

Praise For…

"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

Product Details
ISBN: 9780375707971
ISBN-10: 0375707972
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: March 7th, 1999
Pages: 224
Language: English
Series: Vintage International