The Reader

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I have seen this movie and wasn't sure how I felt about it. So I wasn't super-eager to read the book but I have learned that often more is gained from the book. Plus, it is rather thin and I'm a team player so I gave it a go. I don't have a super-retentive memory for movies like the men in my life seem to, but as I read the book it all did seem very familiar to me so I assume the movie follows the book rather closely. I do remember Kate Winslet played the part of Hanna so she was foremost in my mind as I was reading.

The book is divided into three parts. Chapter numbering begins over in each section so I will label my references with a P for part and then a CH for chapter. The parts are rather distinct and could really be viewed as three short stories except that the main characters continue throughout all parts.

Part 1 has quite a bit of sex in it partnered with the morality of an older woman / young boy relationship. For the rest of the book there is no more sex.

Part 2 involves things that occurred during the Holocaust and a Nazi war crimes trial. Deals with the historical moral issues of the holocaust and how responsible people were for what occurred.

Part 3 involves the main character trying to make sense of his life experiences.

On a scale of 1 - 5:

Sex: 4

Religion: 1

Gruesome: 1

Suspense: 3

Morality: 5

Sex - Quite prevalent in Part 1. Pgs. 25 - 26 provide a good example of how the events are conveyed. An older woman initiates with a school-age boy. P1CH8 begins with body parts, actions and noises.

Religion - I don't recall any specific mention of religion. If there was it was a minor part of life.

Gruesome - The whole idea of the holocaust is gruesome to a degree but it was rather understated in this novel.

Suspense - I found nothing suspenseful in this story. In fact, I thought it was rather transparent.

Morality - A young boy between the ages of 15 - 17 has a relationship with a 36 year old woman. Although it was he who showed up at her apartment, she definitely made it known what she wanted. He started cutting school to be with her but when she found out he was missing class she insisted he go. The bigger morality really comes through the aftermath of the Nazi's actions and how much should guards be held accountable for their actions during the war.

P1CH10 is a power play. Hanna is not upset because Michael doesn't have the power to upset her. But Michael apologized and inwardly was happy she'd been hurt because it indicated she had feelings for him. P1CH14 is very similar. There are underlying morality issues of emotional type of abuse that is often present in real-life situations.

Discussion Questions

P1CH9 includes several philosophical questions - discuss: Can the memory of happiness stay true if it ends unhappily? Is happiness "only real if it lasts forever?" Do "things always end painfully if they contained pain, conscious or unconscious, all along?"

What did you think P1CH9 was foreshadowing?

Why did you think Hanna wanted Michael to read to her?

At the end of P1CH16, why did Hanna go to the pool and then disappear when Michael stood up?

What is your understanding of the explanation for the "juxtaposition of callousness and extreme sensitivity" (Pg. 89 - end of P2CH1).

P2CH2 "What is law? Is it what is on the books, or what is actually enacted and obeyed in a society? Or is law what must be enacted and obeyed, whether or not it is on the books, if things are to go right?"

Pg. 93 "The more horrible the events about which we read and heard, the more certain we became of our responsibility to enlighten and accuse." Michael felt it was just his group. Is this human nature? Is it more true of society today?

In what ways was Michael more mature when he was younger and less when older?

Parts 1 and 2 are a stark contrast - almost as if they are two separate books. Is this novel a love story or a horror story? Fantasy or history?

Pg. 101 At what times have you stood outside yourself and watched? Can you relate?

Who is the "Reader" the title refers to?

At the end of P2CH9 Hanna confessed to writing the report. Did she? Why or why not? Why did she confess?

P2CH10 (end) Michael felt he had betrayed Hanna and he was guilty - if not of betraying a criminal than of loving one. What was the betrayal? At the time he felt guilty, did he still love her? At the time he loved her, was she a criminal?

P2CH11 (end) "Imagine someone is racing intentionally towards his own destruction and you can save him - do you...?"

P2CH12 Did you agree with the advice Michael received from his father? (" justification for setting other peoples views of what is good for them above their own ideas...") (Pg. 141 - 142) Why or why not?

P2CH14 (end) When Michael got a ride to Struthof and asked the driver if he had been the one sitting on the ledge, the driver threw him out and sped off. Why?

P3CH1 Michael felt that the parents of his generation were suffering because they took part or they did nothing at all. He reasoned, " of our parents is the only love for which we are not responsible." (Pg. 170) Discuss your opinions and understandings.

P3CH4 is a very heavy, intellectual chapter. Is it necessary? What does it add to the story?

Theme Ideas

Use plates with a "green vine-leaf border". (Pg. 31)

Serve cake and hot chocolate. (Pg. 154)

Serve thin steak, french fries and peas. (PG. 155)

Serve German food and beer. (Pg. 155 - 156)

Do a service project to encourage literacy. Some ideas:

  • Look for a program in your area that helps inmates record stories for their children

  • Child literacy

  • 10 Charities that Promote Literacy

  • Read to patients at a medical rehab, cancer center, nursing home, or other facility

  • Gather and donate books for a local shelter