Book number 6: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
What it is: I think this piece puts the story together nicely: “How could it be a comfort that the pain I went through because of my love for Hanna was in, in a way, the fate of my generation, a German fate, and that it was only more difficult for me to evade, more difficult for me to manage than for others. All the same, it would have been good for me back then to be able to feel I was part of my generation.”
What I liked about it: The way the story unfolded reminded me of The Sense of an Ending, particularly because some topics are the same, such as the discussion on the “delays and failures of life“. The way the book oozed guilt, numbness, shame, confusion, and betrayal is so beautiful it makes you wonder why pain and sadness look so good on paper.
Also, this one is historical fiction set in Nazi, Germany, and I search myself why I’m drawn to these stories, falling in love with the likes of The Book Thief and Fall of Giants in the past. I found that it has to do with my desire to “understand why people can do such terrible things. What is it you want to understand? That people murder out of passion, or love, or hate, or for honor or revenge, that you understand?” I know bad people can do bad things because they can, but the how will remain forever a fascination to me. The Reader says the secret is all about the indifference, and I am a lot indifferent, but damaging others just because I can has yet to appeal to me.
I loved how the writer married the uncharacteristic love story with the point he was trying to make on the generation gap between Germans pre and post Hitler. Also, the questions on what is to be done with the aftermath of the Third Reich – who is responsible, what could have been done, how do you live with it, and all that – are brilliant. It makes you think, if you were in that position, how would you react? It was a sweeping, intense time in history, and much as we look back we would never understand what it was exactly like but considering the external pressures, ultimately, “behavior does not merely enact whatever has already been thought through and decided. It has its own sources, and is my behavior, quite independently, just as my thoughts are my thoughts, and my decisions my decisions.“
Additionally, the bits on letting go, memory, and the reality of time are well-thought. This line I particularly find true: “I thought that if the right time gets missed, if one has refused or been refused something for too long, it’s too late, even if it is finally tackled with energy and received with joy.” Finally, I don’t wish to discuss much of the romantic angle on The Reader, which I find very interesting btw, but isn’t it amazing, how we tend to absolve the ones we loved, because of that love, even if they don’t deserve it?
What I didn’t like about it: I read this twice. What else do I need to say here? Oh, I know. I should take the time to watch the movie adaptation of The Reader.
Recommended for: Historical fiction fans, go and check out The Reader. It is lovely.