Book: The Reader
Author: Bernhard Schlink
Stunningly moving from beginning to end, "The Reader" takes your breath away. Set against the backdrop of post-war Germany, Schlink takes you hostage before you have a chance to protest against the complete disregard for social/culturally accepted norms. Schlink adeptly tells the hauntingly beautiful, yet disturbing, story of 15 year old Micheal's sexual entanglement with a woman (Hanna Schmitz) more than twice his age.
After spending almost a year instructing Micheal on all things sexual, Hanna vanishes - leaving Micheal incomprehensibly devastated and racked with guilt and shame. Just as Micheal begins to achieve moderate success putting the pieces of himself back together and enrolls in law school, Hanna reappears as a defendant on trial accused of participating in the horrors of the concentration camps. While his class is covering Hanna's case for its instructional value, Micheal is once again ensnared by Hanna. Micheal stumbles across the knowledge that Hanna is illiterate; which would exonerate her from the more severe charges. Hanna is too ashamed to admit this in court (despite the fact that it would allow her to walk away a free woman); leaving Micheal to decide what the greater good for Hanna is. Betray her confidence and free her against her wishes? Or let her spend the rest of her life in prison because of her shame?
Micheal and Hanna meet again in an ending that is breathtaking, yet morally devastating.
"The Reader" doesn't end at the last word, but plays in your head for days or weeks as you run over and over the moral implications of Micheal and Hanna's actions. A must read for everyone.