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on 7 May 2010
Readers who are prepared to face the challenge of unconventional thinking on the Holocaust will enjoy Bernard Schlink's Der Vorleser. While Post-Holocaust collective guilt is a recurring theme throughout much of contemporary German literature, Schlink's refreshingly different approach and refusal to succumb to stereotypes sets Der Vorleser apart from the rest.
Indeed, as the schoolboy narrator's relationship with a mysterious 36 year-old woman unfolds in Part One, we could be forgiven for assuming that the entire novel would centre around this love affair. And in essence, it does. Schlink uses this unorthodox relationship as a metaphor for Germany's so-called `second generation' seeking to build a future, while facing up to the previous generation's dark Holocaust past. As such, he makes the collective feelings of guilt, betrayal, resentment and uncertainty internationally accessible, which may have otherwise been difficult for a non-German reader to grasp.
Schlink should be applauded for the impressively realistic narration of an adolescent in Part One, leaving the reader uneasy, as we share in his wholly convincing experience of obsessive first love. Yet it is this plausible depiction that presents difficulties as we begin Part Two. Having been so engrossed by the musings of an infatuated schoolboy, it proves difficult to grasp the narrator's sudden maturity and newfound sense of responsibility, as Schlink neglects to reveal his transition from schoolboy to University student. As Part Two progresses, however, enigmas and unresolved issues from the first section start to be answered, and we become convinced by the narrator's detective-style investigation in establishing a morally correct judgement on the Holocaust crimes he now feels inextricably linked to.
Schlink can be credited with blurring the boundaries of Holocaust responsibility, whilst controversially humanizing the perpetrators of these atrocities. At times the level of understanding evoked by Schlink for a convicted criminal may seem unsettling, and we question whether our sympathy is misplaced. It is this moral dilemma, however, which allows us to understand the narrator's own predicament. The heart-wrenching ending fuels the power of Schlink's message, ensuring that the issues raised by `Der Vorleser' cannot be eradicated from our conscience.
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on 22 May 2004
"Der Vorleser" by Bernhard Schlink is a wonderfully written book. With great precision and understanding, Schlink tells the story of a young boy falling in love with an older woman. This may sound like a formla, but the book is far from being predictable. Once you start reading, you won't be able to let you go - a great story from one of the best writers of the German language, this book should not be missing from the bookshelves of any reader of German literature.
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on 22 May 2009
In his book, Schlink approaches the much written about Holocaust by addressing the relationships between those who played a part in it and the post-war generations. He uses the character of Michael Berg and his views of his relationship with Hanna Schmitz to tell us about some of the difficulties faced after the Second World War.

The first of the three parts can be seen as a love story between Michael and Hanna who is more than twice his age. This part is very nice and easy to read and also quite entertaining, however once the reader gets into the second part it gets more difficult as it feels like the action slows down. As a law student Berg attends a trial in which Hanna is one of the accused and other than this event nothing much else happens in the section. The very short chapters make the reader feel like they are getting through the book, but in reality it still takes time.

We see how Hanna's affect on Michael has an influence on his future relationships with women, including his marriage. In the third part of the book, we start to read about the relationships between the generations in post-war Germany. It can be said that Michael's view of Hanna after the trial is confused much like how many children viewed their parents when their roles in the Third Reich were made clear.

`Die Scham' is mentioned in a number of different contexts, for instance Michael's `Scham' in appearing in public with Hanna, her `Scham' about an unknown secret and a nation's `Scham' of their part in the Holocaust. Schlink uses this to make the reader empathise with each of the characters and does draw you in but when this connection is lost in the second part it becomes less interesting.

Der Vorleser is an interesting insight to the relationships between generations in post-war Germany; we see how shame plays a large role in a person's choices and actions. For those with a specific interest in these relationships the book could be of interest, but for leisure it would take a little more effort to read.
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on 30 November 2013
Having been set this as part of a reading list for my German course at university, I worried that this would be quite an inaccessible book that I would struggle to read. I was very wrong! The level of German is not as advanced as most books I've come across in this genre: I didn't struggle at all with getting into this novel and I could barely put it down once beginning it!

I would certainly recommend Der Vorleser to others: a beautiful book, in my opinion. Certainly one of those "Books in the German Language" you absolutely must read.
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on 26 December 2015
This book is a very moving book. It lets us think about our own guilt. Even if we do nothing it could still be wrong. This is what this book tells us.
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on 8 November 2014
Bout it when I already had a copy smh....but came just as the description said it would
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on 4 November 2015
Most interesting book - I look forward to the denoument
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on 4 January 2016
A good copy of this well known book, in German.
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on 19 August 2015
Great book for daughter doing A level german
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on 1 August 2015
Exactly as described. Quick delivery.
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