by Bernhard Schlink
2 of 5 stars
I'm not really sure if I liked this story or hated it. I have a hard time empathizing with martyrs. Both the "hero & heroine" are martyrs and it drives me crazy.
So here's the ridiculous story in a nutshell (spoiler):
Somehow, this gentle, innocent, immature 16-year-old boy and this brash 30-yr-old ex-german-guard woman fall in love (how that's possible when your minds and life development are completely on different ends of the spectrum is beyond me-- they don't even ever have a "real" conversation their entire lives for peace sake!), and as they begin what was supposed to be this *passionate* love affair (a bit deflated, if you ask me), they become entangled in a series of mixed feelings and actions. They toil along their little story, not even sharing their thoughts or feelings with each other, but simply "reading" together and having sex. Then one day when she 'mysteriously disappears' and the boy is devastated and remains emotionally ruined for the rest of his life. Marries, divorces, marries divorces. Has no relationship with his single daughter. Can't open up to anyone. Can't really commit to anyone. Can't ever think about anyone else without comparing them to Her. Blah blah blah. (Somewhere between Michael's adolescence and adulthood, Hanna was put on trial for some atrocious crime, to which he attended, being a law student at the time; she was sentenced to life in jail, and for some inane reason he never goes to visit her, even though in his head she's his whole world)... Finally he's so messed up emotionally he basically commits his life to dictating books on tape for her and mails them to her like every week. For YEARS. Yet they STILL don't talk. No letters, nothing! So years and years and years go by and she's finally set to be released after whatever appeal. The warden calls him to ask if he can help her get situated back into the real world (find a job for her, a place to live, and visit her) since he's the ONLY person who has had ANY contact with her and is clearly the only person in the world she has. He agrees and FINALLY goes to see her in jail, and for the first time since she disappeared, they speak. Like two sentences. Awkward sentences. And not emotionally open or revealing. Then they discuss the plan for when she's released in another couple sentences and he leaves. They don't even HUG! That night she commits suicide. Seriously? Wanna hear the ultimate kickers in their martyrdom? A) The reason she ends up with a life sentence in jail is because she can't admit she doesn't know how to read(!!!!??!!) (if she would have admitted that in court, it could have proven her innocence by a handwriting sample); B) Their little "affair" was only THREE FRIGGIN MONTHS some summer in his high school career! And it did THAT much damage to you so you could never find happiness again?? I mean.... Please.
Anyway, the book is dry and the movie was fast. Overall it's not terrible writing nor terrible directing, which makes it okay to watch (the film is shot pretty beautifully actually), but it's still a terrible story, no matter how you slice it. I understand the point of pairing the two generations together, trying to depict the gap and how each generation dealt with and experienced the German War, but it was really not very relatable. Fine, keep the two generations together and make them fall in love, but then MAKE THEM FALL IN LOVE, not be these ridiculously pathetic people who can't express a lick of emotion to each other and rarely say a lick of sentences to one another and expect me to value their relationship and characters! Then maybe I could feel it. Or appreciate it. Buuuut ya didn't, so neither did I.
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