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The Reader

I had a bad case of deja lu when I started to read The Reader – a nagging feeling that I'd read it before.

It's possible – the book (which has just been made into a film that could give Kate Winslet her first Oscar) was published over 10 years ago and my memory isn't always the best.

Or it could be that it's the second recently-filmed book about the Holocaust that I've read in as many months after The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, which I also really enjoyed (if that's the right word).
However, if I have read it before, I certainly didn't finish it as the ending still came as a surprise to me.

And, short of losing my copy of the book, I don't know why I would not have read it to the end because The Reader is an absorbing (and short) story full of important moral questions on issues of guilt, love, individual responsibility etc.

The story revolves around Michael Berg, who as a teenager embarks on a short but passionate affair with an older woman called Hanna, a component of which is that he reads aloud to her before they have sex.

Hanna mysteriously disappears from Michael's life one day, only to reappear years later as a defendant in a trial where Michael learns of his former lover's terrible past as an SS guard.

Written by a German of the post-War generation – Bernhard Schlink was born in 1944 – it is obviously in part an attempt by Germans to come to terms with their Nazi past.

But it is beautifully written and about things that are relevant to all of us.