Bernhard Schlink, 1995
The Reader is both a literary surprise and a moral challenge: a riveting, provocative, and deeply moving novel about a young boy's erotic awakening in a passionate, clandestine love affair with an older woman, and what happens to them both when the secrets in her past are revealed.
Fifteen-year-old Michael Berg becomes ill on the way home from school. A woman takes care of him. Later, the boy arrives at her home with a bunch of flowers to thank her. And then comes back again.
Hanna is the first woman he has ever desired. But there is something slightly off-key about her. His questions about her family and her life go unanswered. One day Hanna simply disappears.
Michael's life goes on, but he can't forget her. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna.
The woman he had loved so passionately is a criminal. Much about her behavior during the trial makes no sense. But then, suddenly and terribly, it does—Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret.
As the past erupts into the present—both Michael's past with Hanna, and the past of Germany itself—Michael must accept that he will never be free of either of them. (From the publisher.)
The 2008 film version of The Reader stars Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes.
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