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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink~★★★

Author: Bernhard Schlink
Title:
The Reader
Release Date:
Mti Edition, December 30th, 2008
Publisher:
Vintage
Genre:
Fiction

Back Cover: "When fifteen-year-old 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."
Taryn's Review: I liked the book, but I felt very emotionally distant from this book at the same time. Michael told the story very unemotionally, so I really never felt the passion, the heat, the pain from Michael's point of view.

Hanna was a mystery throughout the book. She was very odd in her behavior toward Michael. One moment she bathed him, but in the next she wanted nothing to do with him. Michael finally discovered the reason for some of her outbursts, but it was years too late and by that point, Hanna had condemned herself to a life sentence in prison for her role as an SS guard in WWII.

I think the question here was if Michael really loved Hanna or if he loved her the way he originally thought he had. At the end of the book I asked myself if Michael was doing his deeds to Hanna out of love or if he was doing them out of pity for her, or perhaps even out of guilt for his lack of action during Hanna's trial.

The end of the book was shocking to me. Hanna again threw Michael for a loop that neither he nor I saw coming, but if we would have looked at her history, it may have told us that Hanna never changed at all and history would indeed repeat itself in one form or another. I wouldn't say not to read this book, but it's one that will take more effort than simply picking the words up off of the pages.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather~★★★

Author: Willa Cather
Title:
O Pioneers! (Part of Willa Cather: Three Complete Novels)
Release Date:
Originally released in 1913; this edition released 1992
Publisher: Gramercy Books
Genre:
Fiction

Book Jacket: "...O Pioneers! is the classic, moving tale of the frontier. When Alexandra Bergson's father dies she is left in charge of his unsuccessful farm and her younger brothers. The unyielding land of the Nebraska Divide would be challenging enough, but a violent passion shakes this courageous young woman to her core and changes her life forever..."

Taryn's Review: I actually went to the library in search of My Antonia by Willa Cather, but they don't carry it. I had seen part of the film O Pioneers! in a class and decided to give it a try instead.

The story was good and Willa Cather definitely had a gift for prose, but something was missing for me in this story. I can't put my finger on it at the moment, but no single character grabbedd me and pulled me deep into the story. While I liked Alexandra and Marie and Emil and the many others, I didn't find myself emotionally involved in their lives.

My other question in the story was why Emil was so infatuated with Marie. He had the world at his fingertips, but yet he yearned for a woman who was already married. I guess these are the reasons we have love stories in the first place, but Emil did not even appear to try to love anyone outside of Marie. And poor Alexandra, not realizing Emil's desires for her best friend.

I would recommend the story as Willa Cather has a lovely way of writing. It is also an American classic, highlighting the story of an immigrant man's family prospering in the United States, yet being prosperous wasn't a protection from the pains of life.