TITLE: The Reader
RATING: ★★★★ (4/5)
My goal this year was to read seventy books, and I'm currently six behind schedule. It began with Coraline some time in January for book club, and it has made it's way through to Jane Eyre. I'm a third of a way through it, and so far I'm finding it very enjoyable. I'm cracking the spine a bit too much though...
As part of my Love Through The Ages theme, I wanted to read something out of the ordinary, but something I could still relate back to love. The Reader had been sitting on my bookcase for a long time, and by long time, I mean about two and a half years. I'd seen the film and I'd heard the occasional review which gave it good praise, but I didn't really get in the mood for reading it until now. I guess because it's getting cold and the nights are getting long, I wanted something I really felt I could snuggle up with, and The Reader really is this kind of book.
I'll start off my giving you a little anecdote on how I came to own my copy of The Reader. Two and a half years ago, I went away to Manchester to visit my aunt and uncle. I came back with a stack of books they had told me to read, and The Reader was among them. I watched the film with my parents before picking up the book and just fell in love with it, but nothing inspired me to actually pick it up.
Then one day, my English teacher walked into the library where I was sat, and she said "the English department have got something to give you." She handed me a copy of The Reader from the 2013 World Book Night series, and it was all clean and nice, unlike my uncle's one which had been read and reread enough to make the cover dog-eared. So I gave my uncle's copy back to him, and it was then when I finally thought, you know what? I own this book now, and I'm going to read it. And read it I did, and I'm rather glad that I did so.
The Reader is the story of a boy called Michael Berg who comes from a somewhat distant family, and is spending his days looking for a distraction. He's fifteen at the beginning of the book, but by the time he's narrating it he has obvious finished his journey, and it telling it from an older age.
Michael meets a woman called Hanna, and through a series of events, they eventually begin an affair with one and other. It's clear that Michael is in love with her. It's his first experience with these new and adult feelings, so maybe it's just the feeling of novelty which makes Michael believe he's head over heels. But what about Hanna? Is she in love with him? Hanna is a mystery, she's a character we can't predict. She continuously surprises us with the way she acts and things she does. Her persistence at calling Michael "kid" reminds us that she knows what she's doing, but doesn't bring at end to it.
The characters blew me away. I love it when characters do that, because they eventually end up telling the story by themselves, and you get lost so much easier. Michael's maturity through the book is almost beautiful to watch, and so is Hanna's. Their feelings and emotions are so well displayed, without Schlink having to tell us exactly what's going in. It's the trademark of a great writer.
As for the plot, I couldn't congratulate Schlink more. I'd watched the film previously, and already knew what happened, yet I still felt blown away by the powerful words he used, and the way in which he controlled them. There were moments when things just seemed to slot into place and it took me a moment to actually pull myself out of their world. Some of the more exciting parts of the book deal with the horrors of the Holocaust which I found exceptionally brilliant.
There was one fault which I did not expect to find. I don't think I've read many translated books, and if I have then they've probably been translated from French or Italian, as many of the great penguin classics are. But this book was translated from German, and I couldn't help but think this was the reason why some of the sentences seemed to be structured rather oddly. Sometimes I had to go back and reread paragraphs to make sense of the phrasing. I'm unsure whether this is a common occurrence with translated books, or whether it was singularly this language (or even this translator.) Another book which I own that had been translated from German is Inkheart and when I get around to reading it, I will compare my thoughts on the language.
I'm a huge fan of the film and book alike, and not just because it has David Kross and Ralph Fiennes in it. The movie does justice to the novel and more. The cinematography makes the whole thing come alive, and even if you don't want to read it, please watch the film, as it is very inspiring. Kate Winslet also stars, and she acts Hanna's part brilliantly.
There are times when I think about some movies that have been better than books, and other times when books have been better than movies. I'd like to make a post about it, but I've got a backlog of books to write about, and I have no time to lose!
Next post I will be reviewing House of Hades and Doctor Sleep! The Doctor Sleep reviews have really shocked me as none of them seem to be particularly favourable, and I LOVED it.
Thanks for reading!