Book Review: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

[simpleazon-image align=”left” asin=”B007CFL4WO” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31%2BebolDTnL._SL160_.jpg” width=”112″]The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Usually I prefer books where I can connect with at least one character, but I believe, in the case of this book, that the disconnect was intentional. The philosophical questions and moral complexities could only be examined by a reader who was not emotionally involved. Is it possible to understand someone’s actions while also condemning them? The Reader is a quick read that sticks with you and makes you think. Originally written and published in German, it gives a different perspective. The author refers to the collective guilt of the German people about the Nazi atrocities that were committed under their noses. To this day, I cannot think of Germany without an image of Hitler coming to mind. I wonder how it is for the Germans who long to escape that horrific past. Is it even possible? I recommend this book for readers who like food for thought.

Favorite quotes:

“A plethora of doorbells indicates a plethora of tiny apartments, with tenants moving in and out as casually as you would pick up and return a rented car” (p.6).
“What is law? Is it what is on the books, or what is actually enacted and obeyed in a society?” (p.91)
“An executioner is not under orders. He’s doing his work, he doesn’t hate the people he executes, he’s not taking revenge on them, he’s not killing them because they’re in his way or threatening him or attacking him. They’re a matter of such indifference to him that he can kill them as easily as not” (p. 151).
“There’s no need to talk, because the truth of what one says lies in what one does” (p. 174).
Favorite words:
Peremptory
Truculence
Concatenation
Vociferous

Book Review: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

Imagine being an American diplomat in Germany just as Hitler was coming to power. This unique perspective is granted the reader by Larson’s well-researched and infectiously readable book. Dodd was an unassuming and, in many ways, ill-suited and unlikely diplomat. He loved the Germany of his youth where he had studied, but Germany under Hitler was a whole different animal. Unlikely diplomat though he may have been, Dodd saw Hitler and the Nazi’s for what they were and tried in vain to convey his concerns to the US State Department and President Roosevelt. This book reads like a novel, but it is all the more striking because it is true. The players are very real, as is the terror and the tragedy. I wasn’t always riveted, but I was definitely engaged. The Dodd family and their friends and lovers were complex and the reader becomes invested in their lives. As the true horror of Hitler’s Germany dawns on them, the reader feels the tension and fear while sharing their sense of disbelief. A truly fascinating read!