The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink
translated by Carol Brown Janeway
(New York: Vintage International, 2008, c1997)
"When young Michael Berg falls ill on his way home from school, he is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover, enthralling him with her passion, but puzzling him with her odd silences. Then she disappears.
"Michael next sees Hanna when she is on trial for a hideous crime, refusing to defend herself. As he watches, he begins to realize that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder."
"When I was fifteen, I got hepatitis."
Liked the earlier segment of the story, in which Michael and Hanna become unlikely but passionate lovers despite Hanna clearly having some skeletons in her closet (and frankly, if she's a 36 year old woman having a clandestine affair with a 15 year old boy, doesn't this almost go without saying?) rather more than the later, in which Michael is a grown man studying law and Hanna on trial for war crimes. Maybe that's because I'd figured out Hanna's secret fairly early on, so the big reveal didn't have the punch it might. Maybe it's because I've read rather a lot of World War II novels (which would be screamingly obvious to my readers if I actually had any), and while the events of which Hanna is accused are certainly horrific, neither the Nazi atrocities nor the legal drama was the most compelling example of their genres that I've ever read. To be fair, both might read better a) in the original German, and b) to someone more intimately familiar with German culture and how WWII has affected subsequent generations. A well-written book with interesting imagery, even in translation, but not quite all I'd hoped for.