The Reader

  • by Bernhard Schlink
  • Narrated by Campbell Scott
  • 4 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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, 15-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.


What the Critics Say

"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)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


When I was finished this book I felt empty. I couldn't decide if I liked it or not, however, it continues to pop into my thoughts and haunt me, and that is a sure sign that the book affected me.
Being a second generation holocaust survivor from both of my parents, I was raised with the holocaust in my veins, always learning and feeling the emotion of what my parents, their families and friends went through, one horror story after the other. I never took the time to understand what the second generation German people went through, a completely different perspective.
This dysfunctional "kid" (as he is referred to in the book), who even as an adult could not come to terms with his relationship with Hannah, was full of unresolved feelings and emotion too. Hannah herself could not admit and own up to what she had done. Also dysfunctional. A very dramatic book, which more than once, sent chills through me.
I am not sure if I would recommend this book to everyone. It is different. I can't quite put my finger on why. The narrator was fine, nothing special, but not a hindrance either.
What I will say is for a 4 hour book it certainly packs a punch. Will definitely see the movie.
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- Ella


I have not seen the film adaptation, so I went into this book without any preconceptions. I think that is a good thing after completing this short, but extremely powerful, listen. I'm going to address this review without discussing more than is present in the Audible synopsis above.

The Reader is, essentially, a parable for the generations following the Holocaust. Michael represents the generation immediately following the perpetrators, as represented by Hanna. I won't go any farther into the plot, though I am not sure how important refusing to present 'spoilers' actually would be in this instance.

This parable addresses one of the most horrifying questions of the 20th century; how could the perpetrators of the Holocaust (or arguably any genocide) do what they did? And, how do the generations that follow understand or, if possible, come to terms with their actions?

It also explores the long term damage those who perpetrated or allowed the atrocity did to those who came after the war. Hanna harmed Michael, whether she intended to or not. The generation before harmed the generations that followed.

I'm not sure those questions will be answered for many of the listeners to this book. At least not in a way that is satisfying; I know for me, I was satisfied. That is not to say that it is an easy read; I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books that follows me for quite a while.

Schlink is blunt and sparse in his writing. Every word serves a specific purpose and economy of usage is employed extensively. Many authors would have made this into a 10+ hour book; here we have a fully functional story in just 4 hours. I didn't feel as if anything was rushed or too many jumps were made; in fact, I think expanding the story would have detracted considerably from the issues at hand. You can tell a lawyer wrote it though.

Highest marks.
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- Charlie

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-17-2008
  • Publisher: Random House Audio