The Reader tells the story of Michael, a 15 year old boy in Germany, and his experience of his love affair with Hanna, an older woman.  After the breakdown of their relationship, and many years later, Michael is studying law and observing a trial of Nazi war criminals, he is shocked to discover that one of the defendants in the trial is Hanna.

The Reader was adapted into a film in 2008, with Kate Winslet winning the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her role as Hanna.

Discussion Questions

Please note that some of the discussion points below may act as spoilers for the book’s content.

  1. who do you think is The Reader in the title of the book?
  1. do you feel any sympathy for Hanna after you read about the crimes she is accused of carrying out?
  1. do you feel that Hanna is singled out by her co-defendants at her trial?  Why do you think that?
  1. what do you feel about Hanna having ‘favourites’ in her prisoners?  Why do you think she does this?
  1. does the character of Hanna give you any insight into why she joined the Nazi party?
  1. why do you think that Michael contacts Hanna in the way that he does toward the end of the book?
  1. do Hanna’s final actions at the end of the book change the way you felt about her whilst reading the book?

Download this book group activity.

You can use HMDT resources to find out more about the trials of Nazi War Criminals.