The Reader

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Paperback, 218 pages
Vintage Books, 1998
First Vintage International Edition, Fourth Printing

Hailed for its coiled eroticism and the moral claims it makes upon the reader, this mesmerizing novel is a story of love and secrets, horror and compassion, unfolding against the haunted landscape of postwar Germany.

When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she inexplicably disappears. When Michael next sees her, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a hideous crime. As he watches her refuse to defend her innocence, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder.

Translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway

Editorial Reviews

"A formally beautiful, disturbing and finally morally devastating novel." —Los Angeles Times

"Moving, suggestive and ultimately hopeful....[The Reader] leaps national boundaries and speaks straight to the heart." —The New York Times Book Review

"Arresting, philosophically elegant, morally complex....Mr. Schlink tells his story with marvelous directness and simplicity." —The New York Times

"Haunting....What Schlink does best, what makes this novel most memorable, are the small moments of highly charged eroticism." —Francine Prose, Elle

About the Author

Bernhard Schlink was born in Germany in 1944. A professor of law at the University of Berlin and a practicing judge, he is also the author of several prize-winning crime novels. He lives in Bonn and Berlin.