One day in post-war Germany, Michael, a fifteen-year-old boy, gets sick and on his way home he feels bad and is helped by a beautiful woman named Hanna. She is thirty five years old and is living alone. When he recovers from his hepatitis, he visits Hanna's apartment to thank her. After that they become lovers. His reading aloud to Hanna strangely becomes their routine after their love affair.
One day she suddenly disappears. A few years later, he sees Hanna by chance. He is now a law student and goes to observe the court for the Nazi's war crime. Hanna is one of the defendants. She was attached to the Waffen SS and worked as a guard of the concentration camps.
In the trial, she is considered as the responsible guard of a bloody incident, and she reluctantly accepts it. Because she wants to hide her secret. The sentence for her is a life in prison.
It is everything for her to hold back on her private humiliation and preserve her dignity. He realizes her secret during the trial, and he visits the presiding judge, but he eventually doesn't tell her secret to the judge to preserve her secret.
He keeps sending tapes of books that he recorded to her prison without any messages.
The main theme of this book is the sense of guilt for the German's war crime, especially the Holocaust, and the humiliation or the dignity of the individual. The eroticism in the part one of this book is the metaphor of the sense of guilt that the second generation of the post war in Germany has. Michael had never liberated from the relationship with Hanna for life.
The literacy enables to conceptualize or generalize our experiences and understand the essence of those. Hanna learns reading in prison and also learns Holocaust. I cried at the last part.
Our generation in Japan is similar to Michael's generation. We condemned our fathers and came into collision with them when we were young. Japanese, however, didn't condemn the war crime for ourselves.