Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Reader- Thumbs Up

The book club actually ran itself. We discussed the book The Reader, there was so much to discuss for such a small book.

The Reader was about a 15 y.o boy that become involved with a German older woman in German after the war. He does not realize that she was a S.S officer till many years later, after he is in law school.

These are the questions that come to mind while reading the book:

She gets involved with a 15 year old. She rescues him, after he falls ill with Hepatitis and vomits on the street and she takes him in until he can get home. They have a affair. She asks him to read to her on a regular basis not realizing till years later she is illiterate.

The truth comes out to only him. She ruins his life with the affair he has as a young boy. He gets married and has a child but the relationship is ruined because of the affair he has with Hannah.

Hannah becomes a SS officer because she is illiterate. She goes job to job.
She has a chance to become promoted but she is afraid that she will be found out so she rejects a few promotions. She decides to work for the S.S.

Many years later when the boy becomes a adult he is going to law school and he, and a group of students are asked to observe a trial. The trial is Hannah and some other S.S officers.
She is accused of doing something and executing the order by her other co-workers.
But she can't write, she doesn't admit it to anyone. She does go to jail for life.

The two messages are literacy, and German guilt what happened and the younger generation wants to know what happened but the older generation wants to sweep it under the rug. The other question what would you have done in the same situation if you had to go into the German Army?

It probably was a loosing battle you would have been killed if you contradicted the German S.S. Morally what she had done was wrong. The other thing was she did not know how to answer questions, she was very naive, and ignorant about how the world worked. Possibly because she isolated herself because she could not read.

Two things happen he starts to send her tapes of the books, why does he do this?

I was angry that he felt obligated to do this. Why does he feel obligated? After a while she learns to read and she wanders why he doesn't correspond but still sends her the tapes. I think this is the only connection he has and he still wants some connection with her.

Would you tell or are you very ashamed of not reading that you would sacrifice every thing to not be found out?

During the time she is a S.S. officer she has the prisoners stay back in the work camp, to read to her, which bides more time( I think 60 days) until she has no choice but sent to the gas chambers.

Does she do this for pity or for selfish reasons To be read to. Why does he feel so guilty and help Hannah even after the truth comes out.

We come to the conclusion we find out that he wants to help her at the the trial.
He figures out only then that she can't read. He wants to tell the judge but decides against it. He keeps it quiet. He may perhaps feel guilty because he never told the judge he can't read.
The other thing in the book it talks about that shame and guilt by all German citizen after WW2. After the war they wanted to sweep it under the rug. How could their parents do this and allow Jewish citizens to be killed.

Was there any one character that you liked in the book?

I said no. I did not like Hannah she showed no remorse or feeling up till the end.
She is very stoic and cold person. German people during that time were nationalistic, and exact there were never a gray line everything was black and white.
Especially when she gave the reason why she let the church burn with the Jews in the church and did not open the door.

Everyone was surprised that after many year she was going to be let out for parole.
She killer her self. I am not surprised but the other members of the book club were. She could not face the world. in jail she felt safe. Out in the real world she would have to have others take care of her now that she is old.

I do like books that make you think about issues. The person who recommended the book was unable to make it. But for the first time in awhile we had a good discussion. I do hope we get new members soon we are loosing people. Today there were 5 people that showed up.

I highly recommend this book to read if you want to talk about literacy.
A great compliment to this discussion would be to have one of the organization that works with literacy come to your book club meeting. I am not a prude I don't think but there was some parts in the book I could have done with out. Don't forget in the U.S. we are not so free to read and watch movies that are explicit with sex as much as Europe is. That is the only thing I would say that was wrong with the book.

Thank you Elaine for recommending this book.

Our next book discussion will be at Teasa's on March 11th @ 1PM. We will be reading The Painted Drum.


Anonymous said...

This is in my TBR pile, so I'm glad to see it'll give me a lot to think about. I think we're going to the movie on Saturday.

Marie said...

Sounds like you ladies had a great discussion. It's certainly a very complex, morally challenging book.

Anonymous said...

I read this book a long, long time ago but it had a big impact on me. It's one of the few books I plan to re-read, now that the movie is out. Sounds like your book club had a lot to discuss! You said it was the first time in a while that your group had a good discussion.. is that due to the smaller number of people, or poor choice of books? Just curious!!

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