German subscription cinema and literature
7. Der Vorleser
Reasons to study this work
At 200 pages, the novel is quite a long read but it is a thoroughly absorbing one and one which will fascinate and enthral young people in the English speaking world has much as it has those in German speaking countries.
If the film with Kate Winslett is shown, it should be pointed out, if it's not obvious enough, that there are many significant differences between the two works as is usually the case.
The interest of the work
Written in 1995 by law professor, Bernhard Schlink, Der Vorleser quickly established itself as an important work, dealing with the fading memories of those who had lived through the war and been involved either as active participants, as passive bystanders or people who looked the other way.
The novel starts off as the love story of a 15 year old boy who falls for the much older woman who helps him out when he is ill. He is initially poorly placed to judge the woman, Hanna, as she reacts unexpectedly to what he considered to be perfectly normal statements or actions. In hindsight the woman's behaviour is explained as the last phase of the book unfolds.
Parts of the novel, particularly those involving the court and judicial issues can be quite difficult to understand although the strength of the underpinning theme of the relationship between Michael and Hanna helps keep interest high, particularly when he discovers his former lovers two big secrets.