What an amazing read! I got sucked in from the very first page and couldn't put it down. It's an amazing story of love, guilt and the legacy of Natzi crimes as they affect the narrator, Michael Berg.
Michael Berg is fifteen years old and suffering from hepatitis. When he gets sick in the street one day on his way home from school, a woman, Hanna Schmitz, brings him into her apartment and helps him wash up. Later, he visits the woman to thank her and is drawn into a love affair that is as intoxicating as it is unusual. Their ritual becomes one of him reading aloud to her, taking showers, and making love. Then when Hanna disappears following a misunderstanding, Michael is overcome with guilt and loss.
It's not until years later, when Michael is studying law at the university, that he unexpectedly runs into Hanna Schmitz again. He is part of a seminar group that happens to attend a trial for Nazi war crimes. He is shocked when he recognizes her one of the defendants, along with other former concentration camp guards. During the proceedings it becomes clear that Hanna is hiding something that to her is very shameful, even more shameful to her than murder itself. She never reveals her secret and is sentenced to life in prison because of it.
Michael by this point in the story is married and divorced and suffers from a haunting emotional numbness. To help himself through sleepless nights, he begins to read his favorite books aloud into a tape recorder and sends them to Hanna in prison. The bond between the two of them is continued until Hanna's release, when, in the face of Michael's ambivilance and Hanna's shame, their story reaches its horrible climax.
This book serves as a story of guilt and atonement as well as a love story of stunning power. This book is also a work of unforgettable literature due to its psychological complexity, moral nuances, and stylistic restratint.
What I liked most about this small novel is that it can be read on so many levels, with a subtext so haunting yet hopeful that I just couldn't put it down. I cannot wait to check out the movie. I am intrigued to see how the movie makers adapted this story to screen.