The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

Saksh asked me to read this, and going by previous experience, I immediately placed a request at my library. Only after I started reading the book, did I make the connection with the movie(which I have not seen, by the way, but had read about).

I honestly don’t know where to start to talk about this book. I read it in one go. Could not put it down. It was that engrossing. It takes you through a lot.  Micheal Berg, a fifteen year old school boy, goes to thank a woman, Hanna , who saved his life when he came down with hepatitis, and ends up having an affair with her. One day, she disappears from his life, leaving no clues, no messages, nothing. He tries to find her, but finally gives up. He also wallows in guilt wondering if he had done something to drive her away.

The next time he sees her, she is in a courtroom, a defendant in a trial related to the Holocaust. Micheal Berg’s struggle with the demons of history that his previous generation has handed to his, his guilt over his relationship with Hanna,his guilt that he has in some way, betrayed Hanna, so many emotions, so many angles, so well etched out. Hanna’s struggles with her own secrets. The most important thing that this book, brought out for me, was how the German generation which came into being, after the war, struggled with the moral dilemma, the second-hand guilt that has come along with their heritage.

Micheal and Hanna’s relationship has been handled beautifully. A subject which could easily become sleazy, has remained what it was – a relationship between two people who had their own history.

I am not going into the details of the story, because I do think that this is a book that we should all read, and I do not want to give away too much. Why is it called the reader? Well, you have to read it to find out. And now, I want to watch the movie too. Saksh – can’t thank you enough for recommending this book.

The Splendor of Silence By Indu Sundaresan

The Splendor of Silence is a sweet romantic story, woven into the period where India was still under British Rule.

It starts off with Olivia, an American girl, getting a trunk filled with her Indian mother’s belongings. She has grown up with her grandmother and father, who has always been curiously quiet about her mother. In the trunk, she finds a letter which begins to tell her the story of her parents.

It was 1942, Mila, the daughter of the Political Resident, Raman, is betrothed to Jai, the Prince of Rudrakot. Raman, is a widower, with 3 children, 2 boys and a girl – Mila. He dotes upon Mila, giving her opportunities that most Indian parents would have balked at, in those times. He is determined that his daughter has the opportunities that his wife did not. At a time, where people would not even want girls, Raman was the exception to the rule. One day, Sam Hawthorne, an American captain reaches Rudrakot and everything changes from that point on. Sam, ostensibly, was there to rest his injured shoulder, has another hidden agenda, which is very important to him, personally.

The author has done a wonderful job in characterization. Each person in the story has a very well etched out character. It is quite understandable at the end of the book, why some of the main characters behaved the way they did. Mila’s confusion, her choices, and her decision, are all understandable given the circumstances and the society that she lived in.

She has also very brilliantly captured the dynamics of India in those days. The caste system, the racial discrimination between the British and the Indians, the manner in which Indians remained less than equal. The political sentiments that prevailed at that point is brought out very well in the narrative. Mahatma Gandhi’s influence, the manner in which some people chose to interpret it, and the confusion of some Indian, who genuinely believed that the British in India, was doing a good thing.

I love the book. I loved everything about this book. I would give it a 4/5. Anyone who likes historical fiction, is sure to love this one.